On Politics
5:00 am
Wed June 6, 2012

Newberry and Valencia debate whether the budget process is a farce

The House is set tomorrow evening to begin considering a $8.1 billion spending plan for the fiscal year starting July 1. Reporters will guess just how far the budget vote will extend into the wee hours Friday morning.

I got some advance thoughts on the spending plan from House Minority Leader Brian Newberry (R-North Smithfield) and Representative Larry Valencia (D-Richmond), a progressive and member of the House Finance Committee My full interview with them will air during Morning Edition Friday on RIPR.

Highlights:

– Newberry calls the spending plan “a clear election year budget. It’s designed to get the Democratic majority through the election. If you look at it, there’s nothing in it — or very little in it — that’s going to deepy offend anybody. So that, in a sense, is the worst thing. It’s not so much what’s in there. It’s what’s not in there. If if were up to me, we’d be doing some major overhaul of our tax system and our regulatory system.”

– Valencia is far more positive on the budget. He points to how legislative Democrats pushed back against broader tax proposals by Governor Chafee. Valencia also cites accelerated education funding, and a partial restoration of funds for programs serving the developmentally disabled. “I think we’re doing the best we can in a tough economic situation,” he says.

– Newberry: “We have an $8 billion budget; we have a million people — that’s just nuts. I’m sorry, that’s crazy.”

– Newberry sasy the budget doesn’t do enough to help the state’s struggling cities and towns. Valencia says “from a long-term legal impact standpoint that makes the most sense – that they should address their problems the way Providence has, and I don’t think we want to necessarily strip collective bargaining arrangements away from the unions by fiat.”

– Valencia says he doesn’t expect floor fights in favor of raising the state income tax to succeed. “None of our bills,” to do that, “made it out of committee,” he says, “so I know that the reception was pretty lukewarm on the House Finance side.”

– Newberry says the budget process ”is a farce. The idea that a budget that is written essentially by two or three people behind closed doors is then sprung on a Finance Committee, that itself doesn’t know what’s in the budget until a few hours before it sees it, and then it’s actually given  it in printed form and given about an hour to read before it votes on it, is to me just an insane way of doing business.”

– Valencia defends the budget process. “Every Finance Committee member was well aware of what could be in the budget, what could not be in the budget,” he says. “We were briefed beforehand in great detail.” Valencia suggests Republicans would operate similarly if they held the majority, and he says Newberry’s criticism falls short since Republicans plan to unveil plenty of previously unseen amendments.

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