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As the RI House passes the 2020 Budget, Representative Walsh criticizes the Speaker and the process



Walsh called for greater transparency in the Budget process and warned that the $1M for a Cranston chiropractor may not be the only secret waste of taxpayer money

“I apologize in advance to my Republican colleagues [because] I am gonna be voting for this budget, disappointingly,” said Representative Moira Walsh (Democrat, District 3, Providence) as the Rhode Island House of Representatives prepared to vote for the 2020 Budget. “As my daddy always told me when I was little, you can’t always get what you want but sometimes you can get what you need. (And I like to still pretend that he made that up himself.)”

The $9.97B budget, passed by the House, will be voted on in the Senate next week.

“Over the last couple of days it has been brought to our attention that the way that we’ve introduced amendments was not the way that the process was supposed to work, that everything was coming too quickly and too much at the last minute and there wasn’t enough transparency,” continued Walsh, who often fearlessly criticizes Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston.)

Then Walsh brought up the $1M that was earmarked for a single chiropractor in Cranston, the revelation of which plunged the Budget process into chaos, upsetting the delicate patchwork of behind the scenes deals and promises that were made to get the agreements needed to pass.

“I want to believe that the million dollars that we took out of this budget for a wildly inappropriate venture was the only million in there,” continued Walsh. “I want to believe that but since I’m not on Finance and since I can’t very well read these 38 page amendments in the five seconds that we have them in front of us before voting, I have to take everybody’s word for it.

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“I want to make a promise to my constituents that just because I’m voting YES on this budget does not mean I endorse the behavior with which it was created. I will always advocate for transparency in every level of government, particularly in the budget. “

As noted by Ken Block here, the public, the press, even most of our legislators, are not privy to the details of the budget. Items such as the $1M for the chiropractor are hidden, as noted by Ted Nesi, in budgets lines that read, “other services” or other vaguely defined terms.

“So I hope that what transpired this year encourages my colleagues to look closer at the line items, to ask questions when it’s available to us and I hope that the leadership will answer those questions when we have them regardless of who’s asking,” continued Walsh, arguing for greater transparency. “I want to promise my constituents that my YES vote on this budget does not mean that I am any less dedicated to transparency it means that I am dedicated to Rhode Island having a working budget. While I did not get what I want and my community did not get what they want at least the Institute for Non-Violence got what they need.”

Last minute negotiations restored the $200K in funding for the Nonviolence Institute, which Mattiello had cut despite the need for the Institute’s services to prevent gun and gang violence in the urban core. Mattiello maintained that in a tight budget year, there was no extra money for the Institute, for veterans, for the homeless, for lead prevention, for the Child Care Assistance Program, for school lunches, or many other causes, while leaving in the $1M for a favored chiropractor.

“Again, I will very disappointingly be voting YES on this budget but I urge my colleagues to pay close attention next year because I’d be willing to bet that the million dollars isn’t the only million,” concluded Walsh. “Thank you.”

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.