Car tax bills in mail, Mattiello reaffirms pledge to eliminate tax

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Warwick isn’t waiting any longer to send out car tax bills.

Mayor Scott Avedisian said yesterday bills should be arriving by this Friday and should the state $9.2 billion budget be approved as passed by the House, which would remove 21,000 vehicles that are 15 years old or older from the city tax rolls, taxes paid on those vehicles would be credited to property taxes, or a refund issued if the vehicle owner did not also own real estate or another vehicle.

In its first year, Mattiello’s legislation would also reduce motor vehicle valuations by 5 percent. Avedisian said the resulting savings in taxes could be applied to future quarterly tax payments.

But while taxpayers will have to wait for relief from the car tax, it’s going to happen House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello promised Tuesday. Mattiello reaffirmed his commitment to phase out the municipal tax Tuesday afternoon after a handful of people gathered outside his Park Avenue law office demanding he get back to work at the State House and settle the budget impasse.

And what if the state budget impasse isn’t resolved until this fall when it would be difficult to amend municipal car tax bills?

Mattiello said he would then act to “double up” car tax relief next year.

“There is going to be car tax relief. I can't tell you when. If it's next year we'll double it up next year. The car tax proposal is going to stay on course and we're going to get the public the tax relief that they demand and deserve,” Mattiello said, standing in the doorway to his second story law office. Earlier in the afternoon Mattiello had a similar position after George Hanley, his two sons and three or four others slid signs under his locked door requesting he return to the State House and approve the the budget as amended by the Senate. Mattiello told the group that it is his private business office and if the group wanted to meet with him they should schedule an appointment with his State House office.

“I believe that the majority of folks, the folks that are working today like I am, are all very supportive of what I'm trying to do on their behalf. You had four people in front of my office today that disagree and I respect their right to do so, but they're in the overwhelming, overwhelming minority,” Mattiello said.

As for the suggestion that tax relief could be “doubled” next year, Avedisian said, “we would be OK, at least it would get it moving and to where we need to be.”

At Tuesday’s protest, Hanley, a Cranston resident who doesn’t live in Mattiello’s district, said he is neither pro or anti Mattiello. However, Hanley feels as Speaker of the House and “king,” as he put it, Mattiello should be working to resolve the impasse. He said Senate President Dominick Ruggiero and the Senate did their “due diligence” by adding an amendment to the budget providing a “trigger” to delay full implementation of the six-year car tax phaseout if the state lacked the funds to do it. The amendment was introduced in the final hours of the session and when passed and returned to the House, Mattiello, in keeping with his vow not to carry the session into the morning hours, sent representatives home.

A social worker who is currently not working because of a disability, Hanley said he is in agreement with Mattiello’s efforts to eliminate the late night sessions. Hanley thought Mattiello could have reconvened the House on Monday, July 3. Hanley said he had not planned to similarly picket Ruggiero’s office with his plea to resolve the impasse. Hanley was disappointed by the turnout for his picket, blaming it on the threat of rain and a possible thunderstorm.

In talking with reporters after Hanley and his group returned to stand outside his office, Mattiello said he has talked twice with the governor since the House adjourned but Ruggiero hasn’t reached out to him. He said he is open to meeting with the Senate president, but as he has made clear, Mattiello reiterated it is for the Senate to reconvene and approve the budget as approved by the House and the Senate Finance Committee.

As for what municipal leaders should do in the absence of a state budget, Mattiello said, “I think they have to call their senators and call the Senate leadership and ask them to pass the budget that their Finance Committee recommended overwhelmingly.”

In addition to his pledge to rid the state of car taxes and make municipalities whole for the revenues they would lose – ultimately $22 million annually – Mattiello spoke of his commitment to vet legislation and eliminate the last minute deals that were once the practice in the closing hours of a session. He pointed out that the amendment approved by the Senate wasn’t discussed in committee and, in his opinion, never properly vetted.

“However, what I will say is that the last-minute amendments, shenanigans, gamesmanship, holding the budget as a political football has to stop. That precedent cannot be allowed to start. There's a big picture here, and if you allow that precedent to start it's going to break down the process that's there to serve the public.”

As for reaction to the budget impasse, Mattiello said constituents have told him to stand his ground and fight for car tax relief. He called Rhode Island car taxes the highest in the country.

“This is about the people of Rhode Island,” he said of his effort to eliminate the car tax.

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