Fox’s Rival Calls for New Economic Model
Friday, May 24, 2013
According to O'Neill, the proposal for the new office would give the governor the tools necessary to improve the coordination, planning and analysis of the economic challenges facing the state.
In contrast, legislation introduced by Speaker Fox last month calls for the formation of a new Executive Office of Commerce to oversee the Economic Development Corporation.
"I am of the opinion that creating new levels of bureaucracy is not a solution that will help the economy," said O'Neill. "However there are some other good ideas that are being put forward in both chambers and I hope to add to those ideas."
“Economic policy coordination and strategic planning, as distinguished from operational responsibilities, should be housed in the Governor’s Office and I am very hopeful...[it] will result in more effective, coordinated economic development efforts," said O'Neill.
The plan outlined by O'Neill would establish an Economic Strategy and Policy Coordination Sub Cabinet under the Governor; create a council of Economic Advisors, and include a Division of Economic Data and Information.
In addition, the proposal calls for the Office of Regulatory Reform to be transferred to the GOEPC, as well as the Governor's Workforce Board.
"The EDC would remain intact, of course," said O' Neill. "They're really the operational nuts and bolts. The GOEPC would be more of the quarterback under the Governor's Office."
In contrast, the House Leadership's proposal would create a cabinet level position with a Commerce Secretary, and would be a line item in the State's budget, rather than fall under the jurisdiction and discretion of the Governor -- who has publicly opposed the plan put forth in the House.
According to O'Neill, the GOEPC plan would complement other pending legislation, including: S-713, sponsored by Sen. Walter Felag (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Tiverton, Bristol) to create the Governor’s Commerce and Workforce Coordinating Cabinet; H 6070, sponsored by Rep. Donna Walsh (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, Westerly, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) to create the Council of Economic Advisors; and S-730, sponsored by Senator Roger Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket/Cumberland) to include a Division of Economic Data and Information to "respond to the need for constant, comprehensive and accurate statewide information on the economy and be a resource to the governor, General Assembly and the state’s economic development agency."
"I'm not looking to take the credit here, there a lot of people involved with this proposal," O'Neill told GoLocal. "It is a reflection of the fact that people have been calling for the coordination of economic development under the Governor, who is the state's leading business advocate."
Another Clash Between O'Neill and Fox
O'Neill cited the lack of transparency in the 38 Studios approval process, in particular the last-minute unveiling of the proposal to General Assembly in before going to a vote, that caused him to speak out against the proposal for the development of the Superman Building into apartments with the use of historic tax credits.
“The time is now to do everything we can as legislators to help this economy. Now is also not the time to criticize ideas that are suggested and worry about who takes credit for an idea. Rhode Islanders want to see immediate action out of this legislature and want a true, thorough and sincere effort to help the business climate in this state. This call for the formation of GOEPC is but one new idea that should be a part of any active plan.”
Larry Berman, spokesman for Speaker Fox, provided the following statement
“The Executive Office of Commerce legislation (H 6063) contained within the House Leadership’s economic development package provides the actual tools necessary to exact change in the state’s economic policy in Rhode Island. Although the proposal by Rep. O’Neill is well-intentioned, it runs the risk of turning into another report sitting on the Governor’s bookcase.
“The legislation introduced by Finance Chairman Helio Melo provides for actual coordination of one Office of Commerce to coordinate all functions involving economic development. The bill, modeled after RIPEC’s excellent plan unveiled last fall and embraced by the business community, also establishes time frames to provide for an orderly transition. In order to effectuate real change in our approach to the state’s economy, the House Leadership legislation is much bolder and more comprehensive than any other plan that has been offered.”
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