NBC 10 I-Team: Speaker promises car tax relief
Three years after the NBC 10 I-Team first began investigating Rhode Island’s flawed car tax system, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello made a bold campaign promise: he’ll focus on cutting and then eliminating the hated tax if reelected.
"I would not be standing up here and telling the citizens of the City of Cranston and the State of Rhode Island that they're going to get relief on their car taxes if I did not 100 percent plan to deliver on that,” Mattiello told a room full of reporters during a press conference at Taco headquarters in Cranston Tuesday.
The announcement came in contrast to what Mattiello told the NBC 10 I-Team in May 2015. When asked if car tax reform might be possible, he said, "Realistically, that's probably not going to happen."
Mattiello cited the budget shortfall faced by cities and towns if car tax revenue were to disappear.
"The reality is that we're probably not going to do anything,” he continued during the 2015 interview. When asked if that meant the state was stuck with the current unpopular car tax system, he said, “We’ll keep looking at different solutions.”
On Tuesday, Mattiello said his first priority after he took over as speaker was to bring jobs back to Rhode Island by cutting taxes for businesses. With progress on that goal, he said, he’s now turning his attention to the car tax, which could provide relief for middle class Rhode Islanders.
“Last year, I had a different concentration than the year before and the year before that. Every year you look at something different,” he said. “You cannot do everything in one year. You just can't."
Mattiello is in a race for reelection in suburban Cranston’s 15th district, where he’s battling Republican challenger Steve Frias.
"The only reason he's doing this now is that he's worried about his re-election. That's what it comes down to,” Frias said of Mattiello’s car tax proposal. “This is an obvious election year gimmick.”
Frias criticized Mattiello for not focusing on the car tax sooner, despite complaints from taxpayers.
“He's been the most powerful man in our state for three years. He could've gotten this stuff done if he'd wanted to. He hasn't,” Frias said.
Mattiello said Tuesday he’s confident he’ll be reelected, both in District 15 and as Speaker of the House.
"I hear over and over and over again that I'm doing a great job, both within my district and outside my district,” he said. “So, I'm very comfortable, politically, with where I stand."