Rep Baldelli-Hunt Has Not Saved Woonsocket From a Sharp Property Tax Increase
An alert Andrew noticed this.
[Woonsocket] Taxpayers won’t be getting that supplemental tax bill after all.
At the urging of state Rep. Lisa Baldelli-Hunt on Thursday afternoon, the bill was recommitted to committee, essentially killing it.
An emotional Baldelli-Hunt, a Democrat who represents Woonsocket, told House members that Mayor Leo Fontaine had not given the House Committee on Finance all the facts about Woonsocket’s financial future when he testified earlier this week. She had offered weak support for the bill at that hearing but says she changed her mind after meeting with members of the governor’s staff.
“Imposing this tax would be disastrous for our struggling city, disastrous for our struggling citizens and a clear indication that this chamber has lost its way,” she said.
Justin, who just finished live-blogging from the State House, reported on this particular vote starting at 5:29 pm.
Let me be clear that I don’t support property tax increases, either generally or in this circumstance. That’s not the issue. The problem is that Rep Lisa Baldelli-Hunt (D-Woonsocket) is under the impression that she has accomplished something by addressing only the revenue side of Woonsocket’s financial convulsions. But what about the expense side? To cite just one item in that column, there’s the $4.7 million in step increases built into the city’s 2010-2013 teacher contract which Justin highlighted on Ocean State Current.
Again, the point here is not to criticize teachers. It is my understanding that teacher pay in Woonsocket ranks at the bottom 20% statewide.
The question is, as Rep Baldelli-Hunt has not suggested abating this or any other budgetary expense nor is she permitting the city to augment a revenue stream, how does she propose that the city honor this contract and meet all of its other obligations?
The response might be that it is not her job to do that. No, it’s not. Now, with the vote by the House denying the supplemental tax and the almost simultaneous downgrade by Moodys, neither will it be the rightful job of the Council and Mayor. Almost certain, a Budget Commission – the second step towards a Receivership – will now take control of the city’s finances.
Neither of those authorities will be shy about asking for a supplemental tax. And a Receiver won’t even need to go to the General Assembly for authority.
Was that perhaps the point all along? In his live-blogging coverage just now, Justin reported the following eye-opening item, with “she” being Rep Baldelli-Hunt and the bill being the Woonsocket supplemental tax.
With tears in her voice and talk about her “political demise,” she made a motion to recommit.
Probably as early as tomorrow morning, it will be clear that Rep Baldelli-Hunt did not forfend a property tax increase for the people of Woonsocket, she only shifted the responsibility for it to another party. It appears that another unintended consequence of the state’s new receivership law has been to convey to our elected officials the power to pass the buck.
In Friday’s Woonsocket Call, Jim Baron supplies amplified coverage.
“Imposing a 13 percent tax at this time,” Baldelli-Hunt said, “would be disastrous for our struggling community, our struggling constituents and a clear indication that this chamber has lost its way.”
Starting to tear up, she continued: “If my actions today result in my eventual political demise, at least I know that, in the end, I had the best interests of my city, and my constituents at heart.”
Interviewed after the session, Baldelli-Hunt said, “We said we were going to vote for it (in the finance committee), but we wanted a hard copy plan in place and we wanted a resolution in support of House Bill 8040 answering the questions we have asked all along: how did this happen and who is responsible? To this day we still do not have the resolution in support of that and our constituents deserve the answers to those two questions.”
Asked if she is happy with the outcome, Baldelli-Hunt responded, “Who could be happy at this time about anything that is happening in our city. It is not a matter of winning or losing.”
UPDATE II – Video
Over at Ocean State Current, Justin has posted the video he took of the floor action on this bill.