NEW: Block Blasts Raimondo’s Infrastructure Proposal
Thursday, June 20, 2013
The proposal, the Municipal Road and Bridge Revolving Fund, was included in the budget as Article 20.
Block's issued the following statement below this morning:
Statement from Ken Block
"Article 20 is not ready to become law. The Department of Transportation will play a major role in the program, but they have not been consulted in any way," said Block. "It defies common sense for General Treasurer Raimondo and Speaker Fox to propose a new infrastructure funding program without speaking to the people directly responsible for its implementation. This is another example of the broken policymaking process that produced 38 Studios."
Block also commented on the House Finance Committee's decision to approve the budget in a late-night vote. The hearing commenced before the budget had even been finalized.
"Once again, Rhode Islanders are witnessing a deeply flawed budgetary process. The House Finance Committee approved the budget without any real analysis or consideration. I commend Minority Leader Newberry and Representative Morgan for abstaining. It is irresponsible for any legislator to vote in favor of legislation they have not had the opportunity to read. 38 Studios should have taught us about the dangers of rushed policymaking. But the General Assembly leadership never seems to learn."
The budget process runs in stark contrast to the typical hearing process.
"The General Assembly holds endless hearings on straightforward, obvious decisions like eliminating the master lever or allowing voters to decide on Ethics oversight," Block said. "But when it comes to the longest, most complex and most important bill - our state budget - the hearing process evaporates. The General Assembly is doing things completely backwards."
Article 20 was previously submitted as House Bill 6059, sponsored by Speaker Fox. The program will fund a limited number of projects with the selection process guided by certain project evaluation criteria.
"The project evaluation criteria are critical to ensuring that funds are awarded to the most deserving projects. Any time a bill proposes to fund certain municipal projects and not others, it is absolutely imperative that the process is fair. As written, Article 20 provides no such assurance because the project evaluation criteria are too vague," Block said. "Common sense says that someone with an engineering background at the Department of Transportation should have played a key role in designing this legislation, and unfortunately that did not happen."
Block also questioned whether Raimondo's involvement would conflict with her responsibilities as fiduciary of the retirement system.
"Let's put aside the fact that the General Treasurer has no mandate to develop infrastructure funding plans. I would think the Treasurer might be more concerned with Article 5 of the budget, which illegally transfers $12.9 million out of the retirement system," said Block. "If forced to decide between her infrastructure program and serving the interests of retirees, which does she choose?"
In fiscal year 2012, there was a surplus of $12.9 million. Under current law, those funds must be transferred to the retirement system. Article 5 would eliminate this requirement. However, the $12.9 million should already have been transferred.
"Ignoring our obligations is what helped created the pension crisis in the first place," said Block. "Rhode Island should deposit the $12.9 million into the retirement system and then revisit this policy. By violating our own laws through retroactive lawmaking, Article 5 sets a very dangerous precedent."
-- Ken Block, Chairman of the RI Moderate Party
Raimondo spokesperson Joy Fox issued the following statement in response:
"The Municipal Road and Bridge Revolving Fund is a smart and innovative way to plan for the future through a long-term program that strengthens municipalities, creates jobs and moves the Rhode Island economy forward. The Treasurer has been honored to work with the Speaker and his team on this thoughtful proposal.
Her top priority continues to be retirement security. She voiced her opposition to Article 5 in a letter to the House Finance Committee in February. While the Treasurer appreciates the difficult task facing the General Assembly in balancing the state’s budget, Governor Chafee’s proposed Article 5 includes a provision that would delay our efforts to return the pension system to a healthy funding level. Our valued public employees and retirees deserve to have retirement security."
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