Mattiello calls House Dem budget caucus for Tuesday


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello has called a caucus of his chamber’s Democrats for Tuesday to discuss the proposed 2018-19 state budget, a sign the legislative session is now heading into the homestretch.

The closed gathering of House Democrats will take place in the House lounge on Tuesday at 3 p.m. “to discuss budget priorities,” Mattiello spokesman Larry Berman confirmed.

The speaker usually decides to call a budget caucus once Democratic legislative leaders are preparing to put the finishing touches on their reworked version of the governor’s budget – making this a likely sign the document is nearing completion.

Gov. Gina Raimondo released her original $9.4-billion budget proposal in January, calling for measures such as a $250-million commitment to school repairs and the authorization of sports betting to boost revenue. That kicked off months of public legislative hearings and private negotiations between her office and House and Senate leaders over the final document.

House leaders have not yet announced when the House Finance Committee will schedule a vote on the budget proposal. If past practice holds, the panel will release and immediately approve the plan on an evening either this week or in early June, and then the full House will debate and vote on it a week later.

When the process goes smoothly for legislative leaders, the Senate quickly approves the budget shortly after the House does, sending it on to the governor for her signature. Last year, however, the Senate tried to amend the budget sent over by the House, leading to a weeks-long standoff between the two chambers before the impasse was resolved.

So far this year, there is no sign such a blowup is coming.

A report out earlier this month showed the state is on pace to finish the current budget year with a $32 million surplus when the books close on June 30. The budget that lawmakers are currently finalizing is for the 2018-19 fiscal year that begins July 1.

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