It has truly been the year of the century so far, and so little of what has happened was possible to predict. A global pandemic? Please — like that would ever happen…
In the increasingly unpredictable world we live in, here are five Rhode Island predictions for 2021.
1) The budget will be delayed. Again.
When the Assembly decided to not pass a new budget because of the pandemic in June, few could have seen the delay extending for more than half a year. Until early December, when lawmakers unveiled their plans for the $12.8 billion budget, the state’s economic future was ruled by month-to-month stopgaps.
One advantage for lawmakers is that their votes on the budget did not become an election issue. Convenient timing.
Heading into 2021, it seems all but certain that uncertainty will rule again and budget delays will become a fact of life.
2) Marijuana will play a large role in next year’s budget.
Speaking of the budget, early projections estimated a $750 million deficit. While the just-passed budget plans to stay in the black with significant aid from Washington, it isn’t guaranteed that the funds will be enough — or that these economic problems won’t continue into 2022, as many businesses have closed and residents have lost their jobs.
As such, marijuana will play a large role in the state’s budget in 2021. More than two dozen companies are vying for one of six licenses for a medical marijuana dispensary in Rhode Island, and they will be selected through a lottery in the new year.
The tax money from the dispensaries can help fill in long-term holes in the state’s budget, and could eventually lead to the legalization of recreational marijauna. Regardless, marijuana will start to play an increasingly large role in Rhode Island’s finances.
3) Gina Raimondo will move up in the world.
2020 has raised the profile of many politicians, and Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo is no exception. She’s been mentioned frequently as a contender for President-elect Joe Biden’s cabinet, and could still yet be nominated for commerce secretary.
But even if Raimondo isn’t nominated for the position and stays in-state, she is certain to continue her wave of national attention into 2021 and raise her profile more. Perhaps a run for national office is in her future, since she cannot run again for governor in 2022.
A roadblock to a national future for Raimondo is Rhode Island’s senators, neither of whom are up for re-election in 2022. Certainly, the ideal path forward for the governor is to land a cabinet position and use it as fuel for a senate run in 2024.
Hell, if Biden doesn’t seek re-election, given his age, Raimondo could run for president. Is that too big a prediction?
4) The 2022 gubernatorial election will be competitive and contentious.
With a wide-open primary and no senate election in 2022, the gubernatorial election will take center stage — and, in many ways, it already is. Speculation has already begun as to who will succeed Raimondo. Earlier this year, the Boston Globe published a list of potential candidates, as have other publications.
Things could get heated on both sides of the aisle, but only time will tell who makes the jump and joins the race. Regardless, the race for governor is certain to take shape in 2021 and will be competitive and contentious, even a year out from the actual election.
5) 2021 will bring no end to drama in the House.
As we exit the year that brought Nicholas Mattiello’s convention center controversy into full view, don’t expect anything different in 2021. Already, drama is erupting over the new presumptive House speaker Joe Shekarchi.
The progressive group Rhode Island Political Cooperative is calling for lawmakers to abstain from the speaker vote to avoid “a continuation of the corruption we have seen under past speakers.”
Whether anything comes of this push or not, it is a sign of the continual discord to come.
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Whatever 2021 brings, we can hope for one thing: That it will be better than 2020. That’s not a high bar to clear.
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