- Associated Press - Thursday, May 12, 2016

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo is getting behind a Republican-backed plan to give the governor’s office more veto authority to control state spending.

After the latest scandal to tarnish the Rhode Island General Assembly, Raimondo sent a letter on Thursday to the House Finance Committee outlining her support for a shift in power to help restore faith in state government.

“This is about sending a signal to the people in Rhode island that we care about integrity, we care about accountability,” she told reporters Thursday evening.

Raimondo’s support came shortly before a hearing on legislation that would ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment allowing line item vetoes. Forty-four states allow governors to veto items in an appropriations bill without having to veto the entire bill, the National Conference of State Legislatures says.

Republican House Minority Leader Brian Newberry introduced the proposal, but it’s rare for GOP-sponsored measures to get far in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.

Raimondo has previously supported the idea of a line item veto, but her more vocal support Thursday follows growing scrutiny over lawmakers awarding grants to organizations with which they have close ties.

The former House Finance Chairman, Democratic Rep. Raymond Gallison, resigned last week because of a federal investigation. Law enforcement authorities have not said what they’re probing, but the scandal has brought public attention to Gallison’s management of a nonprofit organization that was largely funded by legislative grants.

Raimondo declined to say what kind of budget items she might nix with more veto authority and noted she’s never vetoed any bill before. The first-term governor said she was pleased with the budget lawmakers approved last year.

Line item veto authority is “just another layer of accountability that taxpayers deserve,” she said.

Raimondo said she’s confident voters will support the measure if it’s placed on the ballot.

Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello has opposed legislation seeking a line item veto but said Thursday he’s “going to review the evidence and the testimony and study the nuances of the issue.”

Raimondo also is backing legislation introduced this week by Mattiello and Democratic Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed that would allow the state’s Ethics Commission to investigate lawmakers for possible conflicts of interest. That change would also require a voter-approved constitutional amendment.

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