Opening Day is just around the corner and for rabid baseball fans, it’s like Christmas and the 4th of July rolled into one. Opening Day represents the start of the 162 game season that gives many of us something to look forward to and plan around every day. It’s also the only day in the season where every team is a winner and every player can realistically be batting a thousand.
There was another Opening Day at the State House last week when Governor Gina Raimondo released her administration’s budget. It’s a widely held political fact that one need not look further than a governor’s budget to understand what his or her priorities are and this governor is no different. Her budget invests heavily in education, workforce development and economic development programs. She followed through on her pledge during the campaign to lift the moratorium on school construction, providing a lift to the construction industry as well as the children and teachers who are spending their days in our crumbling schools. Whether or not you agree with consolidating the state’s tourism spend, she followed through on that pledge too, and in her first budget centralizes our tourism dollars to give our efforts more “oomph” statewide.
While the glow of the governor’s budget address doesn’t last much beyond the evening — the media’s near-instantaneous critique ensures that — the event itself truly constitutes another Opening Day for the General Assembly. Almost everything in the state revolves around the budget and over the next few months many agreements will be made and disagreements will take place around the lines in that bill. A governor’s priorities are in the budget along with the source of the Speaker’s power since the “sausage making” of the budget process is done through the House Finance Committee.
For what it’s worth, this year is unlike any since 1994, the last year a Democratic governor in Rhode Island presented a budget to the overwhelmingly Democratic General Assembly. In the 21 years since, the governor and the General Assembly were often at odds ideologically and budget time did not bring them together since the Assembly often rewrote the governor’s budget with very little input from his office. It remains to be seen whether the governor will need to use her power of the bully pulpit to keep her priorities in the budget or if she can persuade legislators to follow her lead, but a new season has begun and we’ve got front row seats to the session.