Rhode Island’s General Assembly returns to the Statehouse Tuesday for the start of a new legislative session. RIPR Political Analyst Scott MacKay previews a few of the top issues lawmakers will confront in 2018.
1. The State Budget
"The state is facing a deficit, red ink as high as maybe $200 million in the coming fiscal year. And that’s certainly going to be a big topic of discussion as we get into the nitty gritty of the budget. Governor [Gina] Raimondo will be giving her State of the State speech and budget address later in the month of January. And so they’re going to have to take a very careful look at where they go."
2. Mid-Term Elections
With all Rhode Island lawmakers and congressional officials facing re-election, MacKay says they may be reluctant to take on controversial issues, such raising taxes. Also, he'll be keeping an eye on several state lawmakers running for higher offices.
"Rep. Bobby Nardolillo is one of those, he’s running for U.S. Senate in a primary. And then of course you have the House minority leader, Republican Patricia Morgan, who wants to be the Republican nominee for governor. So we’ll be looking for Morgan trying to use the session to garner some headlines for herself and get her message out to the voters."
Another thing to watch: Governor Gina Raimondo is up for re-election. So is Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, although he is widely expected to win based on high approval ratings.
3. The PawSox Stadium Deal
When it comes to the question of public financing to help the PawSox build a new stadium in downtown Pawtucket, MacKay says lawmakers may need to move quickly.
"As I talk to one member of the team, he’s frustrated because the General Assembly keeps moving the goal posts. So the negotiations have been fraught."
"[Senate President] Dominick Ruggiero and the Senate leadership and Governor Raimondo seem to favor doing a deal. But on the House side, Speaker [Nicholas] Mattiello has been very clear in comments that he made, that he walks door to door in his district, and the people there don’t want any public subsidy for a new stadium.
"This is going to be something that I think they’re going to have to confront, probably in the first few weeks of the brand new session."