Hours after the state appointed a Budget Commission to run Woonsocket's finances, members were working to bring back legislation — a task requiring the entire Woonsocket delegation's cooperation.
Larry Berman, communications director for the office of the Speaker, said Speaker Gordon Fox would not consider the bill again without a strong change of heart from local representatives. "It would have to have the support of the whole Woonsocket delegation," Berman said.
The most public of the legislators opposing the supplemental tax bill, Rep. Lisa Baldelli Hunt (Democrat - District 49), spoke against the measure Thursday. Her testimony resulted in the House sending the bill back to committee.
City Council President John Ward, who by statute is a member of the Budget Commission along with Mayor Leo Fontaine, said on Friday the first order of business for the Budget Commission would likely be an attempt to resurrect the supplemental tax bill. Fontaine confirmed that will be an important part of straightening out the city's finances, and he said Director of Finance Rosemary Booth Gallogly has stated she intends to bring the bill back, too.
Without the $6.6 million the supplemental tax bill is expected to raise, the Budget Commission will be tasked with dealing with a $10 million deficit instead of $4.4 million.
"It seems as though they have tunnel vision for this supplemental tax bill," said City Councilman Albert Brien. He said he, Baldelli-Hunt and Jim Cournoyer, a member of the Woonsocket Taxpayer's Coalition, have been pressing Ward and Fontaine to explore other alternatives to fixing the deficit.
Cournoyer, who said a supplemental tax would be necessary during the first Finance Committee hearing on the bill, said he wouldn't support it without "shared sacrifice", including concessions from retirees and unions, which he said has yet to materialize.
Brien said the deficit couldn't be dealt with using concessions alone. But he also said cuts wouldn't work. "I think it's a bare-bones budget," he said.
Fontaine said Gallogly is reaching out to Baldelli-Hunt in hopes of convincing her the supplemental tax bill is worthy of the representative's support. Baldelli-Hunt did not return calls for comment.
"I hope she [Gallogly] is successful," Ward said, because the supplemental tax is an important part of the foundation for next year's budget.