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RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity Urges General Assembly to Stay on Leave

Tuesday, July 04, 2017


Mike Stenhouse

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity is urging the General Assembly to officially close the General Assembly’s 2017 legislative session.

As GoLocal reported on Friday, June 30, Speaker Nicholas Mattiello made no promise to bring the House back, after it opted to recess when it heard that Senate President Dominick Ruggerio was tacking on an amendment to the House budget at the 11th hour. Mattiello said they two had "shook hands" on what was approved by the House. 

"This Democrat power struggle demonstrates the utter lack of leadership and strategic thinking of our state's political class. There was no rational rhyme or reason to the advancement of the many progressive bills that were about to become law, but that now have fortunately been put in limbo. Further, this bad-government tradition of a final-days cattle-call of legislative votes, against a summer deadline, leaves zero room for negotiation or compromise. This is a clear case of self-inflicted, administrative malfeasance. Our legislative process is clearly in dire need of reform,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO of The Center for Freedom & Prosperity. 

Benefits to Rhode Island

The Center says that if the General Assembly stays home this summer and fall, “Rhode Islanders would benefit from continued independence from the actions of their elected officials.”

The Center lists the following ways in which the General Assembly staying out would benefit Rhode Island.

  • Almost $300,000,000 in new budgeted spending will not legitimately be extracted from the pockets of families and businesses
  • New wage and benefit mandates that dramatically increase the cost of employment will not be imposed on employers
  • Over $32,000,000 in new Internet taxes will not be fully imposed
  • Constitutional 2nd Amendment rights will not be denied without due process based on frivolous Internet-related and other accusations
  • Big-brother type surveillance on our highways will not infringe on our right to privacy
  • Immoral free college tuition will not lessen the value of a college degree and personal responsibility


Regunberg Says to Go Back To Work

The Center’s urging for the General Assembly to stay away comes just after State Representative Aaron Regunberg said the General Assembly should go back to work.

“This session had the potential to be the most successful year for the passage of significant progressive policy of any I can remember. Then, on Friday, insider politics got in the way. I refuse to give up on the issues - earned sick time, disarming domestic abusers, increasing the minimum wage, and more - which can make such a concrete difference in the lives of our constituents. 

And I think the vast majority of Rhode Islanders agree, and want the General Assembly to put people over politics and return as quickly as possible to finish our job. I have committed to doing everything I can to push for that end, and - after taking a day to regroup from an exhausting and frustrating week - am fired up and ready to begin that work,” said Regunberg.


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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