Report Card: Rhode Island Leaders Divided Over Chafee’s Budget

Wednesday, February 01, 2012


Elected officials, union leaders, advocates and business leaders were divided over the Governor’s budget proposal, which seeks to increase taxes by $76 million while also cutting spending by over $40 million, primarily in health and human services.

GoLocalProv asked various leaders for their thoughts on the plan:

RISC: Cost of Living Getting Higher

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Rhode Island Statewide Coalition Executive Director Harriet Lloyd said tax and fee increases in the Governor’s plan will affect everyday Rhode Islanders.

“This budget proposal may not be pursuing as many new taxes as last year’s did, but it represents higher costs on Rhode Islanders for everyday spending like restaurant meals, larger purchases of clothes, and even bridge crossings,” she said. “Taken together, it means the cost of everyday life in Rhode Island just keeps getting higher.”

Union Official: Pay Your Fair Share

Jim Riley, Secretary-Treasurer for the United Food & Commercial Workers, said he was disappointed the Governor’s plan did not include raising taxes on those making more than $250,000 per year.

“I'm more concerned about what wasn't said today rather than what was said,” Riley said. “We didn't hear anything about revenue enhancement. What I mean is compelling individuals that makes over $250,000 per year to pay their fair share.”

House Minority Leader: No Appetite for Raising Taxes

Brian C. Newberry, the House Minority leader said the Governor’s tax plan represents roughly one percent of the total budget and suggested that rather than raising taxes and fees, Chafee should have simply found a way to cut that one percent.

“I find the proposed increased taxes to be unacceptable,” Newberry said. “We spend too much money.”

Newberry said he supports the cuts offered in the budget, but thinks they didn’t go far enough.

As for whether the plan will pass:

“I don’t think there’s a lot of appetite in the House for raising taxes,” Newberry said.

Ocean State Action: More Taxes

Kate Brock, executive director of Ocean State Action, said that while there are were number of proposals within the Governor's budget that she supports, she is disappointed Chafee didn’t make a stronger commitment to “progressive revenue enhancements.”

“There is broad based popular support across Rhode Island to end the misguided economic of the past, most importantly ending tax breaks for our wealthiest residents,” Brock said. “We've lost millions in revenue that have strained state and local budgets to the breaking point, resulted in drastic cuts to critical social services, college tuition hikes and increases in property and car taxes that hurt working and middle class families the most. It's time to ask our most fortunate residents to pay their fair share and stop balancing the budget on the backs of middle class Rhode Islanders.”

Ending Homelessness Advocate: Mixed Bag

Jim Ryczek, executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, said he was happy to the $25 million affordable housing bond proposal, but said he was concerned with the fact that the Neighborhood Opportunities Program (NOP) appears to be cuts from the budget entirely.

“We appreciate that the Governor recognizes the need for more affordable housing in our state. An affordable housing bond is most certainly one piece of the puzzle and is a good long-term solution to our state’s affordable housing needs. We now look to the General Assembly to address the short-term needs of homeless Rhode Islanders through legislative initiatives such as a dedicated funding stream, Just Cause/Right to Rent and the Homeless Bill of Rights. Additionally, we are gravely concerned that the Neighborhood Opportunities Program (NOP), which funds housing for minimum wage workers and Rhode Islanders with disabilities, appears to be eliminated from the budget. If NOP were not maintained, it would put at risk existing projects and those that live in these existing affordable housing units.”

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GOP Leader: Governor is Out of Touch

State Republican Party executive director Patrick Sweeney said the raising taxes is no way to help improve the state’s unemployment rate.

"The Governor couldn't be more out of touch with the average Rhode Islander. The people of Rhode Island are voting with their feet and leaving the state. Rhode Island has the fastest decline in population in the US and now we have the 3rd highest unemployment rate in the country. So how do we solve this problem? The Governor wants to raise taxes on Rhode Islanders proving himself to be another tax and spend liberal. The only way to get our state back on track is to elect more fiscally conservative Republicans. Rhode Island needs more taxpayers, not more taxes."

NEA Official: A Win for Education

National Education Association (NEA) Government Relations director Patrick Crowley said he was concerned about not increasing funding for higher education, but that overall, he considered the initial proposal a win for education.

"It's a positive development to see the attention education funding is getting in Governor Chafee's budget. We think it is a win-win for students, teachers, and taxpayers to have the state pick up a greater share of the cost of paying for school. The proposal to level fund higher education gives us cause for concern, especially given the rising cost of tuition in recent years, but overall, this budget is a better starting point than years past."

Tea Party Leader: No More Taxes

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Lisa Blais, who heads up the Ocean State Tea Party in Action, said taxpayers simply cannot afford another tax increase. She said smaller government was the answer.
“The OSTPA rejects any notion to raise taxes and fees on the taxpayers of RI. How many times must the same message be sent without it falling on deaf ears? Revving-up RI's economic engine does not happen by squeezing yet more dollars out of taxpayers and small businesses struggling in our state that consistently ranks poorly on taxing policy coupled with persistently high unemployment.

“The governor should be aiming for smaller government hence smaller costs. He should implore the General Assembly to cut its own costs ASAP, no more raises; in fact last year's raises should be rolled back and everyone working in the State House, in any capacity, should be paying their fair share toward taxpayer subsidized health insurance. Bottom line, we have got to stop the tax and spend mentality and until we do RI will be running on a treadmill, getting nowhere fast.

“The welfare program is broken. What happened to the waste, fraud and abuse audit? We should certainly be looking at that before we cut help for our developmentally disabled community members while beating the drum for more tax revenue.”

Complete Budget Breakdown


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