House delegation still unsure on Woonsocket tax

House delegation still unsure on Woonsocket tax

Bill passes committee, but members want update on five-year plan

PROVIDENCE - A bill authorizing the city of Woonsocket to raise an additional $2.5 million in taxes this year may have made it out of committee, but that doesn't mean the city delegation is ready to give it full passage through the General Assembly and have the governor sign it into law.

Rep. Lisa Baldelli-Hunt said she will need to speak with members of the city's Budget Commission to see where they stand with other elements of the city's five year plan before the Woonsocket delegation makes a final decision.

The House Municipal Government Committee endorsed the legislation on Thursday, May 17. The bill calls for $1.5 million in new motor vehicle taxes and $1 million in residential taxes as a means to help resolve the city's fiscal crisis. The tax plan exempts owner-occupied single family dwellings and condominiums.

The legislation will now need to go before the full House, and has been placed on the calendar for Wednesday, May 22.

A bill for a larger tax failed last year after members of the Woonsocket delegation withdrew their backing. The current bill was devised with the help of Baldelli-Hunt, and she said that while she "reluctantly supports" the plan, nothing will move forward without an update from the Commission.

"We're getting our responsibilities in order, but we still need to see where they are with their responsibilities," Baldelli-Hunt said. "If the rest of the plan is not in place, than we need to meet to decide what our position is. Before we take the final step of transmitting it to the governor, we need an update."

Other elements of the five year plan include concessions from the city's unions and retiree groups, and changes to municipal services such as trash collection.

Negotiations with six employee groups affected by the plan, however, are not reported to be going well. The commission passed several bills stating that new contracts will be enacted on July 1 if alternative agreements can not be reached. The action will likely be challenged in court.

The Senate approved a tax bill for Woonsocket earlier this month that differed in how the burden was divided between property classes. Baldelli-Hunt said she has met with city's senators, and they have agreed to support the House version of the bill. On Friday, May 23, Baldelli-Hunt implied that the single version would either get the full support of the city's two senators and three House members, or none at all.

"We're a very well-jelled delegation and we respect each other's opinions," she said. "We work together very well so we will need to talk as a group to decide what we're going to do."