- Associated Press - Monday, June 12, 2017

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Gov. Gina Raimondo said Monday she is still in active negotiations with Rhode Island state lawmakers on next year’s budget, including legislators’ costly proposal to cut car taxes.

The Democrat told reporters that “everything’s on the table” and “it’s all in the soup” as she works with the Democratic-controlled legislature to close a nearly $134 million shortfall caused by lower-than-expected revenue and higher-than-expected spending since she introduced a $9.25 billion budget plan at the beginning of the year.

Lawmakers are working to introduce a revised budget plan that could be voted on by the House Finance Committee as early as Wednesday or Thursday, as the General Assembly prepares to adjourn before the new fiscal year begins on July 1. It will take a week after the committee’s approval before the budget can be considered for a vote by the full House of Representatives. Then, it must also be approved by the state Senate before it can move to Raimondo’s desk.

Raimondo said “difficult decisions” will have to be made and the state will also “have to look at the revenue side of the equation,” not just cuts. She declined to specify what possible sources of new revenue have been discussed, except to rule out any broad-based tax increases, such as with sales or income taxes.

Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello has made a six-year phase-out of Rhode Island’s hated car taxes his top priority. The taxes are levied by cities and towns and vary by municipality, so eliminating them is a complicated proposition that involves reimbursing municipalities for their lost tax revenue. The cuts are expected to cost the state $26 million in the first year, and $221 million to fully eliminate them by 2023.

It remains unclear how the state could afford the car tax cuts.

Mattiello spokesman Larry Berman said Raimondo’s office has floated some kind of revenue-raising measures to legislators, but the speaker is not interested.

“He’s not interested in raising taxes or fees,” Berman said.

The Providence Journal reported Monday (https://bit.ly/2tdG7Ze ) that the General Assembly has been moving slowly in passing legislation compared to previous years, with just weeks left in the session. Only four new “public laws” have been enacted since lawmakers convened in January.

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