Proposed Asphalt Plant in Pawtucket Facing Mounting Opposition
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
petition started to block it from moving forward.
Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien spoke with GoLocal on Tuesday on Pawtucket Asphalt Corporation’s request for a variance to put a facility at the Mineral Spring Avenue location, whose application was deemed to be incomplete as of April 25.
“I’m trying to be very careful. I never want to dissuade anyone from a business standpoint, they have rights. Now this is clearly coming from a political perspective,” said Grebien. “Now as far as Don Grebien as a person, who grew up in that neighborhood, this is something I wouldn’t want to put over there. I’ve talked to Pat St. Germain, who is President of [Fairlawn Against Crime Team]. We’re trying to move Link Environmental out of there currently.”
“There’s all these stories about where I stand,” said Grebien, who noted he was “catching up” on the issue, following the recent passing of his brother. “Don Grebien as a resident who grew up there doesn’t think it belongs.”
Council, Residents Opposed
“A couple of weeks ago someone tipped me off to the application put forth to zoning for a special permit and variance for height for an asphalt plant,” Pawtucket City Councilman Tim Rudd told GoLocal on Tuesday. “At that point I contacted my neighboring Council member — Meghan Kallman in the fifth district, which borders the plant — and we came together in opposition to this, and that this isn’t good for the community and the direction of this area.”
A MoveOn petition was started by community organizer Jessica Strunsrud for residents to show their opposition to the proposal by Pawtucket Asphalt to expand operations from beyond its current location at 25 Concord Street in Pawtucket.
Pawtucket residents, City Councilors and other environmental activists (FANG, BASE, NO LNG PVD, etc.) are opposed to the building of this toxic spewing asphalt plant which is also being placed in a low income area thus unfairly impacting People of Color.
Not only do these types of plants not belong in areas inhabited by people at all, but especially in urban areas where pollution is ALREADY high.
We need to LESSEN health impacts of carcinogenic agents on people and their children not INCREASE THEM.
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.
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