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video: Raimondo on PawSox, Vetoes, Trudeau Coming to RI, and More

Thursday, June 29, 2017


Governor Gina Raimondo addressed the press on Wednesday.

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo said it would be "very difficult" to sign legislation that will make it easier for police officers and firefighters to get disability pensions that pay them two-thirds pay, tax-free for life -- and that while she has "concerns about everything" pertaining to the latest Pawtucket Red Sox legislation to build a new stadium on the Apex site, she is confident in Mayor Donald Grebien and city leaders' economic analysis.

Raimondo spoke with the press on a wide-ranging half-hour briefing Wednesday morning at the Department of Administration. 

Disability Pensions

The Rhode Island House of Representatives voted 53-to-8 this week to approve legislation to equate an “illness sustained while in the performance of duty” with an on-the-job injury so more firefighters can qualify for benefits they have in the past been denied.

"I'm concerned with these bills  - they’d weaken system for everyone, put more fiscal pressure on cities and towns. [We] have to protect taxpayers and pension system," said Raimondo. "The disability system is there for people who get disabled. We value the work of firefighters, if they get disabled the system should take care of them. I’m concerned about the “presumption “of disability [in the legislation] — it could be very expensive for cities and towns. [The bills] would be very difficult to sign in this current form."

PawSox Position

Raimondo commented on the recent proposal to provide a framework for state and Pawtucket assistance to have the Pawtucket Red Sox build a new stadium on the Apex site, which Speaker Mattiello said Tuesday could see a fall session of the Assembly for consideration. 

Under the new legislation, Pawtucket would issue $15 million in revenue bonds, with the state’s contributing $23 million. The city’s share would be paid from real estate property tax, hotel tax, a tangible asset tax, food and beverage tax revenues and assessments generated in and around the downtown ballpark, secured in part by state aid payments to Pawtucket.

When asked if she had concerns that Pawtucket might not be able to backstop the bonds, Raimondo then offered the following. 

"I have concerns about everything," said Raimondo. "They put a lot of effort into it — the mayor and the council are strongly behind it, and I’m confident that they’re right that this is an important economic development tool for the city."

National Governors Association Meeting, Paris Accord, and Burrillville

Justin Trudeau

Raimondo spoke to the upcoming National Governors Association meeting taking place in Rhode Island in July -- dropping that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to attend.

"Justin Trudeau is coming," said Raimondo. "I signed on to the group of Governors — we and [others] states [are signing] along with the Paris Accord. I’d love to see if we can make some sort of statement. I’m hopeful we’ll have members of the Presidents cabinet, and senior officials from White House and Elon Musk might be coming."

When asked for her reaction to statements by environmentalists that her stance on the Paris Accord -- and the proposed Burrillville Invenergy power plant -- are in conflict, Raimondo said she "regretted putting her thumb on the scale" when she appeared to support the Invenergy deal at its announcement.  

"I’m proud of my record on all that we’ve done to move Rhode Island further towards renewables and energy efficiency and jobs," said Raimondo. "We’ve done so much with the wind farm and extending the renewable energy standards to community solar."

"In Burrillville, we have to believe in the process. It’s out of my hands, it's before citing board, that's independent of me," said Raimondo. "They need to take into account water safety, climate change — if they feel that the environmental concerns can’t be mitigated or outweigh the energy costs, that's [their decision]."

"In retrospect, if [going to the press conference announcing Invenergy coming to Rhode Island] created the impression that I was putting a thumb on the scale — then I regret that," said Raimondo. "I am always anxious for folks to come here, companies to come here and invest here — I am so focused on that, now more than ever. I can’t peddle fast enough."


Related Slideshow: FY18 House Finance Budget

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The state's community college is poised to be the sole beneficiary of the Governor's Promise scholarship program.

It would make Rhode Island the fourth state to have tuition-free community college, allowing every resident the opportunity to earn an associate's degree tuition free. There is no means testing for the program and few standards.

The cost would be roughly $3 million in the FY18 (for the first cohort of students) and then $6 million the following year there are two classes. 

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State Government 

As part of negotiations -- and the fiscal realities facing Rhode Island with a nearly $140 million shortfally, the Speaker announced Thursday that $25 million will be cut in general spending.

"It's something we discussed with the Governor and she thinks she can make [it] work," said Matteillo. 

Also on the chopping block -- funding for the legislative office to the tune of $2 million. 

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Elderly and Disabled Bus Riders 

After levying fares on some of the most needy RIPTA bus riders (the elderly and disabled) for the first time this past year, which resulted in strong public outcry, the House Finance budget contains just over $3 million  -- for each of the next two years -- to refund the program this coming year. 

WATCH: Opponents of RIPTA Fare Hikes to Rally at RI State House Wednesday Afternoon

Mattiello noted that after the two years is up, it is up to the Governor to find the funding. 

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Governor Raimondo

On Thursday, Raimondo learned she is poised to get a piece (jCCRI) of her free college tuition proposal, which had been a major focal point of her budget proposal - and political strategy. 

On the flip side, she is tasked with finding $25 million in government spending to cut, in order to balance the budget. 

Unlike the May estimating conference, where Rhode Island revenues were found to be off nearly $100 million plus, the Governor can't say she didn't see this  coming.

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Medical Marijuana Expansion

In June, Raimondo called for an increase in medical marijuana dispensaries and an increase in licensing fees to generate $1.5 million in revenue for the state. 

She called for "no less than six licensed compassion centers."

On Thursday, Mattiello said it was not in the budget, due the proposal's late timing.

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Davies High School

The House finance budget contains additional help for manufacturing, including $3.6 million to upgrade facilities at Davies Career and Tech.

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Commerce Corporation

While Mattiello made scant mention of cuts in the briefing Thursday - save for the $25 million out of government spending -- the question was raised as to where the rest of the $140 million shortfall will come from. 

"Millions in cuts came from the Commerce Corp budget. The budget kept the Rebuild RI funding, but money for several other Commerce programs were reduced," said Larry Berman, spokesman for Mattiello. 

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Mininum Wage Hike

Workers will be happy, employers might not. 

The FY18 budget proposal calls for a $.50 minimum wage increase as of January 1, 2018, and then an additional $.40 the following year.

Business owners have continuously fought against such hikes. 


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