The House Finance Committee approved the legislation authorizing the city to issue supplemental tax bills following the tepid support of Reps. Jon D. Brien (Democrat - District 50, Woonsocket) and Lisa Baldelli-Hunt (Democrat - District 49, Woonsocket) this afternoon.
Both representatives said their support for the bill stemmed from their courtesy to local officials rather than their affinity for the legislation or their belief that it would work. Their testimony was delivered before the Finance Committee at 3 p.m. in Room 35 on the basement level of the State House.
"I believe that significant and immediate structural reforms are needed to avert a fiscal crisis in our city and we respectfully suggest that as a first priority, our city leadership should request that a receiver be appointed to work cooperatively with city leaders...," Baldelli-Hunt said. "I am giving them the professional courtesy of supporting the supplemental tax bill that they are requesting," she continued, but said that asking for receiver to be appointed, "is imperative."
"I am at this point willing to come to this committee with an incredibly heavy heart and an amazing personal reluctance but yet, the professional need to do what is done, because the state has to authorize the city to give them the tax that they're asking for," said Brien. If the supplemental tax doesn't work, he said, then he supports Baldelli-Hunt's request that the city go straight to receivership.
"I may not agree that it's the way out," Brien said of the supplemental tax, "I may not agree with the methodology, or the idea that taxation is going to solve the problem. What I'm doing today is giving them the courtesy to try to fix the problem in the means and the manner in which they have communicated to us that will work. And if that's what this takes and that's what they're asking us for, all we can do is give them the authorization to do it."
The bill passed on a vote of 12-2.
Larry Berman, communications director for the Speaker, said the earliest the full House could vote on the bill would be Thursday. He said if it passes there, the legislation will go straight to Governor Lincoln Chafee.
Now, said Mayor Leo Fontaine, the city just needs to wait for the full House to vote on the bill. There is a danger that the schools may need a loan from the city to pay creditors until an approved supplemental tax can begin to generate funds, which the city is prepared for. "Other than that, there's not a whole lot that we can do," Fontaine said.