RI General Assembly returns for 2018 session

By John Krinjak

Email: jkrinjak@abc6.com

Twitter: @johnkrinjakABC6 

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — Rhode Island’s House and Senate are officially back in session.

"Obviously the budget is going to be the biggest issue that’s going to be resonating through the chamber," said Senate President Dominick Ruggerio.

With a $240 million deficit project for the next fiscal year, the budget is already looming large.

"We’re going to have a difficult budget but we’ll get a balance, we’ll take care of society’s needs," said House Speaker Nick Mattiello.

Even with the looming deficit, Mattiello says he’s committed to funding the second year of the car tax phase-out. 

The Senate saw the introduction of legislation to build a new PawSox stadium, amid renewed concerns the team could move to Worcester.

"I would love to see the Pawtucket Red Sox stay in Rhode Island, in particular in Pawtucket," said Ruggerio.

The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled one more public hearing on the newly revised plan on Thursday, but that could be postponed due to the snow.

But Mattiello expressed some reservation. 

"We’re going to give it a full and fair hearing in house finance and we’ll see where the people are on it," said Mattiello.

Lawmakers are also set to take up a plan to borrow $500 million to fix crumbling schools.

"I am optimistic that that would pass, because I think a lot of parents see the crumbling aspects of these schools and they realize that it’s not really an environment conducive to learning," said Ruggerio.

"I agree with the governor this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address our schools," said Mattiello. "I want to see what the plan is before I commit to it."

Then there’s the Trump effect. The General Assembly is closely watching potential cuts to federal programs. 

"We’re looking at healthcare in the state, in the event that Obamacare is discontinued, and how that would affect some of our citizens. Obviously we’re not looking to hurt the most vulnerable people of our population," said Ruggerio. 

© WLNE-TV / ABC6 2017