You may have heard this one before.
Stories deep within the Beacon Communications archives, some years old, discuss a measure that Rhode Island has bounced around for one legislative session after another.
Former Cranston candidate for state representative Steve Frias wrote in an op-ed for the Sun Rise this past summer a line-item veto would allow Governor Gina Raimondo “the ability to eliminate spending that is unnecessary, wasteful or earmarked to benefit politically connected recipients.”
An article from Feb. 14, 2017, said the line-item veto was gaining momentum, with support from then-Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed and then-Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung. A Sun Rise editorial from just before the 2014 election said the lack of a line-item veto was an example of the “continued failure of our legislature.”
The concept was revived once again in Raimondo’s State of the State speech last week. The governor said she would like to see the line-item veto go before voters on the 2020 election ballot.
“Let’s restore Rhode Islanders’ confidence in government, and let’s put it on the ballot and let Rhode Islanders have a say,” Raimondo said during her speech.
There is little excuse for Rhode Island not to adopt the proposal. The Ocean State is only one of six across the country that has yet to institute the veto – which would allow Raimondo to block specific line items within the budget without having to reject it en masse – in some form.
Raimondo emphasized the necessity of a line-item veto in a letter to House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello last summer after she had signed the state’s budget. She said it is a “critical tool for ensuring transparency and accountability.”
“The line-item veto is the single best tool to increase transparency and protect taxpayers from unnecessary or unwise spending,” she wrote in the letter. “It has the support of a solid majority of Rhode Islanders and I look forward to working with the General Assembly to put it on next year’s ballot.”
This is not the first time we have called for the adoption of a line-item veto in this space. As recently as last June, the Sun Rise encouraged the measure as a way of checking the legislature’s power – this coming after $1 million was included in the state’s budget plan to fund a treatment technique developed by Cranston chiropractor Victor Pedro, who has ties to Mattiello.
Rhode Island needs to shake its dubious distinction as one of the only states without some form of line-item veto authority for its governor. We believe the state’s chief executive, like 44 other governors across the country, should have the right to remove spending from the budget that they see as wasteful.
This can shouldn’t keep getting kicked down the road. Sen. James Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown) proposed a constitutional amendment calling for a line-item veto almost three years ago. As member of the legislative branch, Sheehan recognized it has a “disproportionate amount of power” when compared to the executive and judicial branches.
These measures have been introduced, but they have seemingly faded into the ether. Rhode Island likes to be ahead of the curve, but here it isn’t even approaching the turn yet. The time to act is now so that, hopefully, this editorial isn’t being referenced again as a call for the line-item veto in 2021.