EDITORIAL: Raimondo’s Budget - A Tax on Middle-Class Life

Saturday, January 19, 2019


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Raimondo's budget

Governor Gina Raimondo’s 2020 Fiscal Year budget is the type of governing Rhode Islanders hate the most. It mixes a "kick the can" approach on difficult decisions with a dizzying array of annoying taxes and fees on life’s simplest pleasures, and takes no steps to plan and improve for the future. It looks and smells like the budget of a tired chief executive.

First, the budget, like Raimondo's inaugural address and state-of-the-state, lacks vision.  It is surprising for a politician with significant aspirations not taking advantage of her second four years to create a mosaic of strategies to transform Rhode Island.

One would think the Governor would build on some of her first-term success to create a better educated, more economically stable and more forward-moving state.

Second, this budget lacks leadership. It trims nothing. Can it be possible that no significant spending can be trimmed?

The budget offers little to improve the state's dismal public education systems that was embarrassingly exposed by recent test score results. For Raimondo, who has been educated at the best universities in the world, one would think that there would be a great urgency to create pathways to success for all Rhode Islanders. “Free tuition” really doesn’t matter if more than 50 percent of the students can’t return for their "free" second year because they cannot handle the minimal workload and the required 2.5 GPA.

Instead of expanding the program, learn from the lessons of the RI Promise program that so glaringly exposed Rhode Island's failure to prepare children in K-12 for any level of competency in college. There is a screaming need to focus on K-12 before offering free college for those who simply don’t have the skills to perform at the lowest level of higher education.

Third, the creepy little taxes on video streaming like Netflix and upping the fee for Rhode Islanders to go to the beach are examples of being out of touch.  If you own a beach house then you don’t understand that a day at the beach is one of the few little pleasures Rhode Islanders can enjoy as a family without economic hardship. For those that a weekend treat is binging a video series, an additional tax has an impact.  

Fourth, this budget fails to plan for the future. It does nothing to prepare for higher unemployment. It does nothing for growing revenue shortfalls. Rhode Island, with virtually no unemployment, has been consistently running budget shortfalls — today, the estimates for the remainder of this fiscal year and next exceed $200 million. Raimondo takes and deserves credit for record employment, but seem to lack an understanding of how to harvest it for long term stability.

Lastly, Rhode Islanders re-elected Raimondo because she highlighted the successes of her first term and promised to build a stronger Rhode Island for the future. This budget fails to create a vision or to build on successes. We were expecting more.


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