EDITORIAL: Raimondo’s College Plan, Fix the Foundation Before Building on the Addition
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
The proposed legislation is ambitious and somewhat flawed, but should not be dismissed.
The existing program has too many potential unintended consequences and may in fact increase debt for Rhode Island families. As there is no means-test in the Raimondo proposal, wealthy and higher income families can and will take advantage. Instead of attending private schools or enrolling in a competitive out-of-state university, like the honors program at the University of Delaware, they will be motivated to attend the University of Rhode Island instead.
Good for them, but they will knock out a Rhode Island student who will be forced to attend a school out of state at a higher cost and incur greater debt. Just one example of the law of unintended consequences.
Governor, Prepare Our Students Instead
Another significant flaw is that many — far too many — Rhode Island high school students are woefully unprepared to attend college.
At Providence's Central High School, only 12 percent of students read at grade level and only 9 percent can perform math at grade level. Grade level does not mean college ready. Thus, few students at too many urban high schools can perform at even a community college level — Raimondo’s program does little for these students.
Therefore, Raimondo’s program should be restructured and start in a planned structure offering middle- and lower-income students the opportunity to receive free tuition at Rhode Island’s Community Colleges.
There needs to be a means test and there should be an analysis if this program has a positive impact and promotes more options for Rhode Island students, because so many are ill-prepared for college that it creates more complexity.
Raimondo’s program should launch as a pilot program. Simultaneously, Raimondo should work with the same vigor for a significant review and develop a new plan to dramatically improve the quality of the graduates coming out of our high schools.
Lastly, while reducing college debt is important, the priority should be placed on improving our K-12 so that more have the opportunity for college. Too many of these children are receiving inferior educations. Too many are not college ready.
Let's fix what is broken first.
Related Slideshow: Winners and Losers in Raimondo’s FY18 Budget Proposal
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.
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.”
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."
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
- Education Labor Leader Bob Walsh Talks About the Future Under Trump and Raimondo
- Igliozzi Makes Appeal to Raimondo to Keep Plainfield Street 6/10 On-Ramp
- Robert Whitcomb: Raimondo Status, Medical Cost-Shifting to the States; & Saving the Citgo Sign
- RIC’s Endress Talks Trump’s Tweets, Raimondo’s National Press Disconnect with RI, and More
- Guest MINDSETTER™ Stewart: Why I Oppose Raimondo’s Free College Scheme
- Democratic Governor’s Political Arm Launches TV Spot for Raimondo 20 Months Before Election
- Is Raimondo’s College Plan Dead? Paiva Weed’s Departure, Trump and CPAs’ Opposition
- Governor Gina Raimondo is Adopting
- Riley: Politics and Pensions - Has Raimondo Given Up?
- Robert Whitcomb: Raimondo’s No-Bid Contract, Gov. Baker’s MBTA, and Spring
- Moore: Raimondo, Mattiello Squabble Over Budget Giveaways
- War of the Roses Breaks Out Between Mattiello and Raimondo
- Raimondo Headlining Deloitte-Sponsored Event in California
- Moore: Raimondo Badmouths Deloitte, Then Breaks Bread With Them
- Raimondo Administration Starts Process for Locating New Innovation Campus
- Mattiello Calls Raimondo “Tone Deaf” on Public’s Support for Elimination the Car Tax
- Raimondo Announces Investments in 10 New Bikeway Projects
- NEW: Raimondo’s Ties to No-Bid RI State Police Contract
- Seven Reasons Why This Was Raimondo’s Most Complicated Week
- Arlene Violet on 38 Studios, Mob Informants, Governor Raimondo, and More
- Rep. Nardolillo Blasts Raimondo Over New Tourism Campaign
- Does a Republican Candidate Have the Edge Over Raimondo?
- Two Top RI GOP Women Leaders Discuss Trump’s Address, Raimondo & More on GoLocal LIVE
- NEW: Raimondo Announces State Offices Closed on Tuesday Due to Storm