Guest MINDSETTER™ Rep. Walsh: Responds to Feroce’s Budget Claims

Saturday, January 20, 2018


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Moira Walsh

Just over $16,000.

That is the annual income designated by the federal government as the poverty line for a two-person household like mine. My son and I have teetered back and forth on this line, but for the majority of his first four years, we’ve survived living off on $15,000 a year.

My low income can be attributed to a number of factors -- from my lack of a college degree to my giving birth to a tiny human who has made it his personal mission to consume more food than previously thought to be possible. 

My living under the poverty line has NOTHING to do with my inability to manage money. 

Living frugally requires more forethought and patience, self-discipline and ingenuity than many people expect. When I was in the restaurant industry, many of my colleagues had no bank account or even credit. My waitress base paychecks were so small that they precluded me from certain accounts. A bank might offer free checking accounts provided the individual make 2 direct deposits a month totally $100 or more. My $12 paychecks prevented me from such benefits. Most bank accounts charge overdraft fees or have a minimum balance requirement, which puts low-income folks at a distinct disadvantage. But still, my neighbors and I manage to survive and even thrive despite the financial obstacles.

Upon my arrival at the State House, my experience as a single mother and penny pincher allowed me to notice very quickly how the state’s budget was deeply flawed. No, I don’t possess a degree in finance, but even I know that you can’t overspend by 100% in one budget column and expect to be fine. 

I know this because if I ever decided to overspend my grocery budget by 100%, my son and I would be homeless. Financial decisions have much more dire consequences when you are living in poverty. It is the reason my single mom friends shop the sales at six different stores, and the reason why some of them go without in order to ensure their children have what they need. When you don’t have an extra buffer of $500k in your savings account, you are much more likely to really evaluate your financial decisions. 

Very few – if any -- of my waitress friends spend time at golf resorts or drive around in luxury sports cars because we know the true value of a dollar. So, while I’m grateful for the accountants and attorneys who work to make good financial decisions on behalf of the electorate, I truly believe that I’m as qualified to vote on the budget as any citizen. Because when my budget doesn’t balance, there are real-life consequences.

Moira Walsh is a member of the House of Representatives. She represents Federal Hill. Her guest MINDSETTER™ column is a response to businessman Giovanni Feroce's criticism that she is not qualified to make decisions of RI's State Budget. Feroce's former company BENRUS is now in bankruptcy.


Related Slideshow: 2018 State of the State Address


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