Gencarella: Playing Politics With Real People’s Lives
Thursday, March 02, 2017
Then there is the volleying taking place between Raimondo and Mattiello over the ridiculously politicized car tax. Sure, who wouldn’t like to see a real reduction or even the elimination of the car tax? But with the state’s proposal to foot the car tax bill, it’s nothing more than a shell game forcing the taxpayers who live outside of Providence (and other poorly run cities) to subsidize those receiving the benefit. Again, the average hard working taxpayer is on the hook as the two democrats try to score with that political football.
said the state had $150 million in budget deficits so they had to create a new source of revenue through tolls. One year later, Mattiello now believes they can find over $200 million for his car tax phase out (or $30 million in Raimondo’s partial reduction of the car tax). Raimondo believes she can find another $30 million (to begin with) for free college tuition. More shell games with the taxpayer left holding the bag in the form of toll gantries and more taxes.
Then there is the continued giveaways to bribe companies to come to RI. The most recent giveaway is to an international airline. Norwegian Air began its new routes between T. F. Green airport and Ireland recently. Elected officials hail it as a step in moving RI’s economy forward. However, according to the Journal, the RI Airport Corporation will bribe Norwegian Air with the usual $3.7million for the five new routes and the airline will also receive up to another $1.5 million from RI’s infamous Commerce Corporation (formerly the EDC), for the privilege of having them do business at Green. This on the heels of Condor Air’s decision to cut its flights between Frankfurt, Germany and Green Airport just a year after this service began. This giveaway is also on the heels of yet another decline in total passenger volume at Green.
Over and over again, elected officials play with our money looking for political gains and if the RI resident happens to benefit from their moves, so be it. Otherwise, we really don’t figure into the equation. A very sad case in point is the recent death of a 7 month old baby named Willow. Baby Willow died last week after DCYF had investigated not once, but twice in this infant’s short life and when the police found the baby, the home was reportedly in ‘deplorable condition’. It’s reported that the Office of the Child Advocate, an independent agency acting as watchdog over DCYF, is currently reviewing four child deaths and two near-deaths. And what are our elected officials doing about this ineffective and possibly underfunded agency that was created to protect our most at risk children? It would appear not much beyond reshuffling the deck.
Year after year there are reports of dysfunction in DCYF, over loaded case workers, mismanagement at the top, and ‘inappropriate’ uses of funds. An independent review of DCYF reported that ‘it’s a mess’ and the agency ‘has spent years in crisis mode.' The reason is clear why this sliver of RI life has been ignored - they have no voice and they can’t vote yet.
While our elected officials play political football, real people are hurting. We ask both the Speaker and the Governor to stop the insanity and focus on the most at-risk groups - fix the UHIP system now and fix DCYF now. Forget about spending taxpayer dollars on vote buying and help those with no voice.
Editor’s Note: For an analysis of the future for Green airport, read the comment section at the bottom of this Providence Business News article.
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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