2014 budget

When Rhode Islanders head to polls next week, they will face an important issue that has not drawn much attention. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay looks at the Constitutional Convention question.

Our small state is holding a big election on Nov. 4. Statewide and federal offices are all being contested. Every General Assembly member confronts voters, who will also elect mayors in the Rhode Island’s two largest cities, Providence and Warwick.

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Rhode Island’s General Assembly convenes a new session Tuesday. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay explains why this year’s legislature may sound a lot like last year’s.

By now, most of us have cleared our heads of those New Year’s  hangovers. That’s not the case for Rhode Island’s 113 lawmakers.

The 2014 Assembly that convenes tomorrow will resemble nothing so much as the …2013 Assembly. The reason for this is all too evident:  As has too often been the case, the Smith Hill Crowd decided not to decide some big, prickly issues last session.

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The House Finance Committee will meet this afternoon to review attempts to rein in spending in different state agencies.

Spending above budgeted amounts has been an issue in some different state departments in recent years. The agencies in question include the state Department of Corrections and the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.

The heads of those two departments have in the past attributed the higher than expected spending to overtime and other unpredictable expenses.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

The Rhode Island House resumed the budget debate Wednesday afternoon. It's the second day that followed an unusual defeat for House Speaker Gordon Fox which sent the state's spending plan for the fiscal year starting July 1 into uncertainty.

On Wednesday the House voted 67-4  on a bill that freezes tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge until February 1, 2014. The legislation also creates a commission to study how East Bay bridges are funded. And a provision in the House budget blocks any toll hikes for Newport's Pell Bridge.

As tonight’s budget debate in the R.I. House creaks along, some sharp-eyed lawmakers should be asking  some hard questions about the item for a capital budget request of more than $3 million to purchase a vacant lot near the State House wedged between the Veterans Memorial Auditorium and the state employee credit union building. . The provision was put in by Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s administration and originally proposed paying $3.5 million for the land, according to fiscal analysis done by House financial staffers.