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Siedle: Trailing Wreckage, Gina Raimondo Rising Star of Democratic Party?

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

 

To assess whether you’re fully aware of the sad state of American politics today, pick the right answer to the question below. 

Gina Raimondo, the current Governor of Rhode Island, is: 

1.    A failed, short-term former venture capitalist who sold an underperforming fund she managed to the state pension for $5 million—a fund which lost 3 percent a year for ten years and which recently extended its life to avoid realizing far greater losses;

2.    A former Rhode Island General Treasurer who gambled over $1 billion of state pension money in hedge funds, despite dire warnings from experts such as legendary investor Warren Buffett, losing the pension approximately $500 million;

3.    A General Treasurer who withheld hedge fund documents requested by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, claiming confidentiality agreements her office had entered into with these managers prohibited disclosure to regulators; 

4.    A Governor who has been regarded by some as a “rising star” of the Democratic Party; or

5.    All of the above.

The last choice—all of the above—appears to be the correct answer. 

Despite damning evidence that her professional and political past is rife with wreckage—including selling out her state to Wall Street billionaires who support her political ambitions—some expect Raimondo to figure prominently in the future of the Democratic Party. That’s cray-cray, in my opinion. 

Dems, to get back into the winner’s circle y’all will need to look beyond Raimondo’s impressive educational accomplishments and connections within the Party establishment. 

Ask yourselves what has Raimondo done to make life better for her state? 

After orchestrating the state pension fund’s losing hedge fund gamble, it took tons of help from her out-of-state friends for Raimondo to win the Governorship with a mere 41% of the vote. This Harvard grad, Rhodes Scholar, Yale lawyer has done more damage to her home state’s economy than any politician in its history. It’s as if she’s incapable of making a reasoned decision, untainted by her political ambitions.  

Rising star—hardly. 

Shooting star that will rapidly burn up when it enters the national political atmosphere seems more likely. 

 

Related Slideshow: Winners and Losers in Raimondo’s FY18 Budget Proposal

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Winner

Criminal Justice Reform

Per recommendations from the Justice Reinvestment Working Group, the Governor is proposing nearly $1 million in investments such as the public defender mental health program ($185,000), improved mental health services at the ACI ($410,000), recovery housing ($200,000) and domestic violence intervention, in her FY18 budget. 

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Winner

English Language Learners

Under the heading of “promoting 3rd grade reading,” Raimondo proposed adding $2.5 million to make English Language Learning (ELL) K-12 funding permanent.  The Governor’s office points out that RI is one of four states that doesn’t have permanent funding.

The suggestion was one made by the Funding Formula Working Group in January 2016, who said that “in the event that Rhode Island chooses to make an additional investment in ELLs, the funding should be calculated to be responsive to the number of ELLs in the system and based on reliable data, and include reasonable restrictions to ensure that the money is used to benefit ELLs — and promote the appropriate exiting of ELL students from services.”

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Winner

Car Owners - and Drivers

Governor Raimondo wants to reduce assessed motor vehicle values by 30% - a change that would reduce total car tax bills by about $58 million in calendar year 2018. Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello, however, has indicated that he might want to go further in its repeal.  

In her budget proposal, Raimondo also put forth adding 8 staffers to the the Department of Motor Vehicles to "address wait times."

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Winner

T.F. Green

The “Air Services Development Fund” would get an influx of $500,000 to “provide incentives to airlines interested in launching new routes or increasing service to T.F. Green Airport.” The Commerce Corporation set the criteria at the end of 2016 for how to grant money through the new (at the time $1.5 million fund).

Also getting a shot in the arm is the I-195 development fund, which would receive $10.1 million from debt-service savings to “resupply” the Fund to “catalyze development & attract anchor employers.”

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Tie

Minimum Wage Increase

An increase in the state minimum wage is part of Raimondo’s proposal, which would see it go from $9.60 an hour to $10.50 an hour.  Raimondo was unsuccessful in her effort in 2016 to bring it up to $10.10 — it was June 2015 that she signed legislation into law that last raised Rhode Island’s minimum wage, from $9 to 9.60.  

The state's minimum hourly wage has gone up from $6.75 in January 2004 to $7.75 in 2013, $8 in 2014, and $9 on Jan. 1, 2015.  Business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Business however have historically been against such measures, citing a hamper on job creation.  

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Tie

Cigarette Tax

Like the minimum wage, Raimondo is looking for an increase - in this instance, the cigarette tax, and revenue to state coffers.  Raimondo was unsuccessful in her effort to go from a tax of $3.75 to $4 last year. Now she is looking for an increase to $4.25 per pack, which the administration says would equate to $8.7 million in general revenue — and go in part towards outdoor recreation and smoking cessation programs.  

The National Federation of Independent Business and other trade groups have historically been against such an increase, saying it will hurt small businesses - i.e. convenience stores. And clearly, if you’re a smoker, you’re likely to place this squarely in the loser category instead. 

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Loser

Hospitals

As often happens in the state budget, winner one year, loser the next. As GoLocal reported in 2016, “the Rhode Island Hospital Association immediately lauded the budget following its introduction, and addressed that while it is facing some reductions, that it "applauds" this years budget after landing on the "loser" list last year.”

This year, it falls back on the loser list, with a Medicaid rate freeze to hospitals, nursing homes, providers, and payers — at FY 2017 levels, with a 1% rate cut come January 1, 2018. 

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Loser

Online Shoppers

The taxman cometh — maybe.  Raimondo proposed an “Internet Sales Tax Initiative” — which would purportedly equate to $34.7 million in revenues.

"Online sales and the fact that online sellers do not collect sales tax has created a structural problem for Rhode Island's budget — our sales taxes have been flat," said Director of Administration Michael DiBiase, of the tax that Amazon collects in 33 states, but not Rhode Island. "We think mostly due to online sales, we’re able to capture the growth. The revenue number is $35 million dollars — it improves our structural deficit problem. It’s an important fiscal development."

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Loser

Long Term Care Funding

The Governor’s proposal recommends “redesigning the nature” of the State’s Integrated Care Initiative, by transferring long-term stay nursing home members from Neighborhood Health to Medicaid Fee-for-Service and repurposing a portion of the anticipated savings (from reduced administrative payments to Neighborhood Health) for “enhanced services in the community.” “The investments in home- and community-based care will help achieve the goal of rebalancing the long-term care system," states the Administration. 

Cutting that program is tagged at saving $12.2 million; cuts and “restructuring” at Health and Human Services is slated to save $46.3 million. 

 
 

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