Top RI budget director is leaving Rhode Island government

Politics
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island’s top number-cruncher is leaving state government to join The Policy Lab at Brown University, marking the latest Raimondo-era veteran to depart under the McKee administration.

Jonathan Womer, director of the R.I. Office of Management and Budget, announced he’s moving on from Rhode Island government after more than six years. Hired by former Gov. Gina Raimondo when she took office in 2015, Womer helped two administrations put together several complicated budgets, including two during a global pandemic.

“Serving in Governor McKee’s and former Governor Raimondo’s administration has been an incredible privilege,” Womer said in a statement. “I want to thank Governor McKee and I wish him and his team the upmost success.”

His last day is Aug. 27.

Gov. Dan McKee was sworn into the state’s top job in March after Raimondo left midterm to become U.S. commerce secretary under President Joe Biden. Since then a number of members of her team have left, as McKee has hired several of his own people to serve in leading positions.

“Jonathan is a true professional with a remarkable and invaluable understanding of the budget process here in Rhode Island,” McKee said in a statement. “We thank him for his support during an unprecedented Fiscal Year 2022 budget process – his partnership with our team was crucial to getting the job done. Our administration is grateful for Jonathan’s contributions to state government over the last six years and we wish him the very best in his next chapter.”

McKee will now have to choose a new OMB director, who serves several key financial roles, such as advising the governor and helping shape budgets across all state agencies. The annual tax-and-spending plan is the largest piece of legislation passed by state lawmakers each year in Rhode Island.

The McKee administration is currently beginning the process of putting together a proposed budget plan for the 2022-23 fiscal year, which the governor will formally introduce early next year. The governor and his team will need to close a deficit estimated at over $200 million.

Womer is expected to continue to help the McKee administration until he starts his new job at The Policy Lab at Brown University. Womer and the state partnered with The Policy Lab last year when budget officials were worried they’d have to slash departmental budgets by as much as 15% because of the prolonged shortfall of revenue amid the pandemic. (Federal aid eventually came through and spending actually ended up increasing across most agencies.)

“He is brilliant and has an unmatched command of the details of the budget process,” R.I. Department of Administration director Jim Thorsen said about Womer. “While his knowledge will be difficult to replace, Jonathan has built a very strong team of dedicated professionals that will serve as a legacy. We are all grateful for his impact on this office.”

Eli Sherman (esherman@wpri.com) is an investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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