House Sends Woonsocket Supplmental Tax Authorization Back To Committee
Baldelli-Hunt: Woonsocket will face budget commission with or without supplemental tax.
The full House has sent the legislation authorizing a 13 percent tax increase, raising $6.6 million to aid a financially strapped Woonsocket, back to committee.
In an emotional change of heart, Rep. Lisa Baldelli Hunt (Democrat - District 49, Woonsocket), spoke against the bill this afternoon, two days after she offered her support Tuesday.
The bill is not solely about a 13 percent tax increase, she said, but also an additional 4 percent tax, the maximum amount allowed by law. Even with that, she said, there would still be a $5.7 million deficit, which she said city officials had no plan to deal with.
She also criticized city officials for failing to support her measure, House Bill 8040, to launch an investigative commission to determine how the city wound up in this position and who is responsible. "To this date, we still do not have a resolution in favor of our legislation."
Also, she said, the Woonsocket delegation met with governor's staff Tuesday, and learned that a supplemental tax wouldn't prevent a budget commission.
They learned that, "Even with the supplemental tax of 13 percent, we would be getting a budget commission in Woonsocket, either by request or by implementation, and that the supplemental tax would not prevent a budget commission, and that our administration was fully aware of that all along," she said.
Baldelli-Hunt also said the governor's staff had told her that there may also be budgetary problems on the municipal side. "That is not what this delegation was told, it is not what Senate Finance was told and it was not what you, and your committee, chairman [Helio Melo D-Dist. 64, East Providence] Melo were told."
Imposing the supplemental tax now would be disastrous for the struggling community and constituents, "And a clear indication that this chamber has lost its way," Baldelli- Hunt said.
Baldelli- Hunt said if her actions on the floor result in her political demise, "At least I know, that in the end, I had the best interest of my city and my constituents at heart." Her voice broke as she made a motion to re-commit the bill.
"I join Rep. Baldelli Hunt," said Rep. Robert. A. Watson (R-East Greenwich, West Greenwich) "I would urge all members to support her urge to recommit." Otherwise, he said, other communities would rush to follow suit for a quick-fix financial remedy.
Rep. Joseph Trillo, (R-Warwick), also supported Baldelli-Hunt's motion. "To come back to the well, and even, even think about raising taxes by 13 plus 4 percent, which would be 17 percent in a given year, I think is insanity," Trillo said. "This is about people leaving the town of Woonsocket. And these people are leaving because their taxes went up over 10 years from $1,800 to $2,800 dollars,"
An objection by Rep. Rene R. Menard (D-Cumberland, Lincoln) nearly forced a vote on the motion, said Larry Berman, communications director for the speaker, but Menard recused himself directly after.
House Majority Whip Rep. Patrick O'Neil pointed out, "The lone objection came from someone who is now recusing himself from a vote."
Speaker Gordon Fox (D- Dist. 4, Providence) said that because the objection came before he recused himself, he would not support the objection.
"Recommitted," Fox said, banging his gavel and gaining a round of applause.