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PowerPlayer: Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Ernie Almonte

Monday, August 20, 2012


This week’s PowerPlayer is Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ernie Almonte. Mr. Almonte was kind enough to chat with GoLocalProv about the reason he is running and his vision for the future of the state.

1. You were the first candidate to throw your hat in the ring for the 2014 Governor's race. What made you decide to jump out in front of everyone else?

I have lived in the State of Rhode Island my whole life. The history, art, culture, food, people, scenery and so much more make this a great place to live. The problem I see is that there are severe financial deficits at the federal, state and local level but the biggest deficit of them all is a leadership deficit. I have lived my professional life telling people what they need to hear not what they want to hear. I refer to this as having courageous conversations.

There is no plan. There is no vision. There is a lack of leadership.

My experience as a certified public accountant, former AICPA national chairman of over 350,000 CPAs in America, former advisor to the Comptroller General of the United States of America, adjunct professor of advanced management strategies in the Brown University Graduate program, job creator, entrepreneur, business leader, and international speaker on ethics, leadership skills and fraud risks make me well positioned to work with the people of the state of Rhode Island to create an infrastructure for success. I know I can fix the problems we face today and in the future. As Chairman elect of the National Financial Literacy Commission I realized that “we the people of the state of Rhode Island” can work together to create a great future for our children and grandchildren.

2.) What are the three most important issues the state has to address to turn its economy around?

  • Improve education to help our citizens develop the skills to be successful in careers of the future and to create a viable workforce so businesses will create jobs in our state.
  • Reduce business regulation and government red tape so business can thrive and create good quality jobs for our citizens.
  • Provide a streamlined, stable, and effective government that helps businesses and our citizens excel.

3. Take us through a day in your life.

I wake up at 5 AM every day and read local, regional, national and international newspapers.

I exercise every day alternating between running, martial arts and weight training.

In a normal day I would work on accounting, tax, and forensic work for my clients. I spend several hours per week on Department of Defense issues. I teach in the graduate program at Brown University. I am heavily involved with several non-profits in volunteer leadership positions.

I love to cook. The best part of every day is the time I have with my wife Kathy and our five sons.

   4. Cities and towns are still facing massive pension/OPEB problems. Did the General Assembly drop the ball by not going far enough to help municipalities? What would you have done if you were in office?

Cities and towns continue to face massive pension and OPEB problems due to the fact that the pension problem was not fixed last year. Those who drafted the bill failed to address the whole problem by ignoring the municipalities. This was a critical mistake. I testified regarding this matter stressing the importance of including the municipalities along with the state.

The state continues to use an unrealistic rate of return of 7.5% and also re-amortized the unfunded liability to mask the true cost of the liability. By extending the debt over a longer period of time they created a hidden tax of $1.3 billion dollars that they passed on to our children and grandchildren. I provided televised testimony about these facts during the pension hearings.

As the Auditor General from 1994-2010 I issued many public reports, testified at several hearings and spoke at many municipal functions and government training programs regarding the unfunded pension and OPEB issues and recommendations for a solution to the financial crisis.

As the Governor I will use my extensive education and experience in the pension and OPEB arena to work with the executive branch, legislative branch, judicial branch and the employees of the State of Rhode Island to create a solution that finally fixes the problem once for all the people of the State of Rhode Island.

The solution requires Truth, Transparency and Transformation. Tell people what they need to hear not what they want to hear. Provide all the details to the solution so all stakeholders can make their own calculations on the various alternatives for a solution. This problem will need a transformation in how the pensions are calculated and how they are paid for.

5.) Tell us something nobody knows about you.

I am the Chairman of the Department of Defense Audit Committee appointed by the Secretary of Defense and cleared by the White House. Our meetings take place in the Pentagon.

Quick Hitters

Role Model: Alexander Hamilton

Favorite Restaurant: Nick’s on Broadway

Best Beach: Watch Hill

Best Book You've Read in the Last Year: “Seeing David in the Stone” by James and Joseph Swartz

Advice for the next Ernie Almonte:

  • Live by strong core values in your personal and professional life. Mine are Integrity, Reliability, Independence, and Accountability.
  • Base all your decisions on logic.
  • Have empathy for others.
  • Inspire others to excel.
  • Do everything to the best of your ability and then some…some more, some extra.

Dan McGowan can be reached at dmcgowan@golocalprov.com. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan


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