Mattiello Raises Concerns About Raimondo’s Pledge to Expand Free College Tuition to URI, RIC

Wednesday, November 14, 2018


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Speaker Mattiello spoke to the prospect of expansion of free college tuition in RI -- and more -- when he appeared on LIVE.

Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello said that he is "very concerned" about Governor Gina Raimondo's campaign pledge to expand the state's free college tuition "Rhode Island Promise" scholarship program to the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College.

Mattiello expressed his reservations during a wide-ranging interview on GoLocal LIVE, a week following his re-election to House District 15 -- and days after securing the votes to be House Speaker once again for the 2019 Assembly Session. 

Mattiello made the comments during a 20-minute interview on GoLocalLIVE. He also discussed issues ranging from sexual harassment at the RI State House, legislation relating to the statute of limitations relating to sexual abuse, and leading a divided House of Representative. At the Democratic caucus last week, 21 Democrats voted against Mattiello's re-election. 


"I don’t know [if free college tuition] has been effective yet. Let’s give it another cycle or two and see what the numbers are and see the outcomes," said Mattiello on LIVE. "But as far as an expansion, one of the things I’m very concerned about is the sustainability of an expansion and [making] sure the schools have the resources to be competitive and to be a place that Rhode Island citizens can be proud to send their kids."

In July, Raimondo had outlined her second term goal to expand the RI Promise program to URI, RIC and adults at the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI), where currently only graduating high school seniors are eligible for up to two years of assistance. 

IN 2017, the General Assembly approved $2.8 million for the first year of the four year pilot program at CCRI.  In March 2018, the Rhode Island Council on Postsecondary Education voted to raise tuition at URI and RIC to generate millions in revenue. The amount? $2.8 million. 

"We have great programs at URI and RIC and we have to make sure they remain competitive and that the resources are there. We have limited resources when competing with other states," said Mattiello of Raimondo's plan. "So we’ll all collaborate and see what’s best for the state. Some things are just budget restricted and if you don’t have the revenues you can’t do it. We’re moving the state in the right direction but we still have budget challenges."

In October, GoLocal reported, "Documents unveiled by GoLocal show that claims by the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) and Governor Gina Raimondo relating to the success of the free-tuition RI Promise program are not supported by school documents."

According to the documents obtained last spring, 720 "RI Promise, non-Pell Grant" students entered the program in 2017, with 208 on track to meet the standards for an award in year two. CCRI, however, counted all 1,577 first-time, full-time students entering in 2017 as part of its "Promise" cohort -- whether they received free-tuition through the Promise program or not.


Mattiello on Election Win -- and 2019

"I'm glad [the election's] over but I enjoy talking to my constituents — it’s a good time of year, you have really learned what people are thinking. The election numbers were good so I’m very grateful to my constituents," said Mattiello. "We’ve done good policy work [which] trumped politics. If negative politics overcame good work it would set a bad precedent for the future."

Mattello spoke to the growing pressure from the Progressive wing of the Democratic party, as evidenced during the campaign -- and what it could mean for 2019.

"Every issue’s different, but I don’t see the Republican caucus aligning with the progressive caucus. They share absolutely nothing in common," said Mattiello. "I look forward to working with both caucuses.  I wouldn’t be surprised if on different issues people [in] some of these caucuses go different ways because we all care about different things. We're not all the same so to speak."

Mattiello, whose first budget as Speaker passed with unanimous support in the chamber, said he did not envision the same in the coming year. 

"I anticipate getting a solid fifty-plus votes [on the bugdet]," said Mattiello. 

Looking ahead to the session, Mattiello spoke to some of his top priorities.

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"You have to continue on job development, training our employees to be the best in the region, if not the country. You have to make sure we’re competitive tax-wise, the regulatory system really has to be looked at…just make sure we have an environment that’s competitive," said Mattiello. "One of the things I do usually every year or two years is speak with Len Lardaro and get some ideas from some of the experts on what’s best to do. 

On Monday, GoLocal reported on Lardaro's latest report, "RI’s Disappointing Third Quarter Contributes to Lackluster 2018."

Sexual Harassment, Fane Tower, and More

Mattiello spoke to Deputy Majority Whip Christopher Blazejewski's intent to pre-file a bill creating an office and special committee on professional conduct with “broad investigatory and disciplinary powers."

"I want to get it out of my office and I think we have to have an office dedicated for just that," said Mattiello. "If you looked at this election cycle, things were leaked one week before the election — there’s too much politicizing of these very sensitive issues. We’re going to create an office with the expertise to deal with this particular issue. I expect we’ll be moving forward relatively soon."

Mattiello also spoke to legislation to extend the statute of limitations for prosecuting sex crimes; whether he believes Attorney General-elect Peter Neronha should follow the lead of more than twelve other states an investigate the handling and release of information pertaining to sex abuse in the Catholic Diocese of Providence; and his views on the proposal by developer Jason Fane to building a 46-story tower on the 195 land. 


Related Slideshow: Election Night 2018: Photos of Democratic Heaven and GOP Hell in RI


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