PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – House Democrats led by Speaker Gordon Fox on Thursday proposed a complete overhaul of the state economic agencies as they unveiled a sweeping set of bills they say will “improve the coordination and quality” of Rhode Island’s troubled economy.
The Democrats’ other proposals include bringing back the tax credit for historic buildings, this time capped at $5 million per project and potentially $30 million in total; allowing employers to pay workers biweekly; considering curbs on the overuse of jobless benefits by seasonal employers; and creating a new tax credit for local employers who add jobs after making major capital investments.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The reaction to Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s budget proposal Wednesday night was very different from the response to his first two. Here’s a roundup of reactions from Fox, Paiva Weed, Raimondo, Taveras, Fung, Melo, DaPonte, Newberry and Tanzi.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Treasurer Gina Raimondo is urging lawmakers to reject a little-noticed proposal by Governor Chafee to shave $2.6 million off the amount taxpayers must put into the pension fund next year.
The governor’s proposed 2012-13 budget would scrap a seven-year-old law mandating that if the state’s required pension contribution rate falls from one year to the next, taxpayers must put 20% of the reduction into the pension fund anyway.
Raimondo said her staff examined the requirement while crafting last year’s pension overhaul. ”After thoughtful analysis, Treasury concluded that the policy should remain in effect and therefore did not recommend a change to this statute,” she wrote in a letter to House Finance Committee Chairman Helio Melo obtained by WPRI.com.
Rhode Island AFL-CIO President George Nee praised Raimondo’s position. “The labor movement appreciates the treasurer weighing in on the side of our members,” he said in an email. “The present law is sound fiscal policy and should remain unchanged.”
Few cuts in last year’s state budget have gotten more attention than the $24 million reduction in funding for programs that assist developmentally disabled Rhode Islanders.
The latest salvo is the mailer at right from the Have a Heart Coalition, which attacks House Speaker Gordon Fox, House Majority Leader Nick Mattiello and two of the men tipped as potential Fox successors – Helio Melo and J. Patrick O’Neill – for having “trampled on the dignity” of the disabled.
The mailing does not say who funded it, but the address given for the Have a Heart Coalition is that of the United Nurses & Allied Professionals union on Branch Avenue in Providence. Jim Parisi of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals union and Jeanne Jose of UNAP are the contact people on the coalition’s website.
The Have a Heart Coalition has not registered as a lobbying organization with the secretary of state’s office, according to its online directory.
Update: Looks like that’s not the only mailer from the Have a Heart Coalition floating around. Here’s another one passed along by a reader:
What’s ironic is Chafee’s original 2011-12 budget proposal didn’t even call for those cuts, as he reminded me in an interview last year. But he did sign the revised budget lawmakers crafted that included them.
While it’s true Moody’s downgraded its outlook for Rhode Island’s credit rating last Tuesday, a close read of the agency’s report shows some surprising optimism on the part of analysts there (emphasis mine):
Even prior to the recession, Rhode Island faced persistent revenue under-performance and spending challenges. These were exacerbated by the downturn and by the state’s practice of balancing its budgets with one-time solutions and increasing its short-term borrowings for cash flow purposes. The state appears poised to reverse these practices in its FY2012 budget, which is likely to be adopted very close to the July 1 opening of its new fiscal year.
Governor Chafee’s budget proposal did indeed seek to reverse those practices. But doing so partly depended on enacting his sales tax proposal, and it remains to be seen whether legislative leaders will follow his lead when they release their revised proposal.
For what it’s worth, Moody’s has been a rare source of support for the Chafee administration’s fiscal policies. In March, the agency heaped praise on his MAST Fund proposal that aims to shore up underfunded local pension and retiree health plans, which the governor’s office happily trumpeted.
Speaking of the budget, House Finance Chairman Helio Melo and his Senate counterpart Daniel DaPonte “are working diligently every day” to complete it, House spokesman Larry Berman told me this afternoon. They’re fleshing out the details together while working out the big issues with their respective leaders, Gordon Fox and M. Teresa Paiva Weed, he said.
The revised budget must be posted online at least 48 hours ahead of a committee vote, so the soonest it will be made available is Wednesday to prepare for a Friday roll call, Berman said. But it didn’t sound likely the budget will be done that soon – we’re more likely to get it sometime next week.