Moore: Ruggerio’s Opportunity to Foster Compromise
Monday, March 27, 2017
Anyone paying attention to Congress over the last week knows what I mean.
President Donald Trump, who has no previous government experience, thought he could steamroll legislation to upend Obamacare through Congress--similar to the way a chief executive commands directives to sycophantic underlings.That’s not how government works.
Exhibit number two, and a more local example, would be former Governor Donald Carcieri. Throughout his tenure, he was frequently frustrated by his inability to spearhead his agenda through the legislature. Like Trump with Congress, Carcieri was stymied by his inability to work with the state legislature for long periods of his tenure.
That’s why it’s encouraging that Dominick Ruggerio, who represents portions of North Providence and Providence, has ascended to Rhode Island Senate President--the top position in the state senate--following former Senator Teresa Paiva Weed’s abrupt departure for a lucrative position at the Rhode Island Hospital Association.
Sure, Ruggerio, an administrator for the International Laborer’s Union, has some foibles--just like the rest of us. But pardon me if I don’t like judging people harshly for their mistakes and instead prefer to view their whole body of work.
Ruggerio has been at the table, getting results for Rhode Islanders for over 30 years. Whether it was the expansion of the airport, the construction of the convention center, the Providence Place Mall, or the dorms and educational institution buildings at places like The University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College.
Many will criticize Ruggerio for his union ties, but Ruggerio has supported many pro-business initiatives in Rhode Island, including reforming the tax code by lowering the top bracket rate, pension reform, and more recently, the measure to bring Norwegian Airlines to T.F. Green Airport.
In sum, Ruggerio knows how to get things done thanks to not only his decades of experience but also his temperament.
Compromise is Key
It’s no secret that Governor Gina Raimondo and House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello are currently at odds over their dueling, major proposals this legislative session. Mattiello wants to begin a program to completely eliminate the car tax over the next 5 years or so. Raimondo, on the other hand, wants to provide a lower amount of car tax relief, and create a new, free college tuition program for all Rhode Island students going forward.
Ruggerio, in assuming his new role as the Senate’s top dog, has an opportunity to work as a mediator between the two sides. Ruggerio may very well be able to forge a compromise between the Governor’s office and the House of Representatives in the best interests of all Rhode Islanders.
If Ruggerio is able to strike that balance, he will have successful tenure as Senate President. And we’ll all be better off for it.
Related Slideshow: Seven Reasons Why This Was Raimondo’s Most Complicated Week
More Subsidies to Out of State Companies
According to RI Commerce, Pennsylvania-based eMoney Advisors will receive $3.3 million in taxpayer subsidies to hire - or move - 100 jobs in Rhode Island.
This is the latest subsidy program to out of state companies. Previously, GE, Johnson & Johnson, and Virgin have received more than $10 million in subsidies. And Wexford has received more than $32 million and may be as much as $40 million in subsidies.
For Raimondo, this is a win. But some don't agree.
Leading RI Entrepreneur Strongly Criticizes Subsidy Strategy
"eMoney Advisor is looking to open an office in downtown Providence to create "up to" 100 jobs and is seeking $3.3 million in tax credits from the state.
Let's see, that's $33,000 per job created. Capital Good Fund is creating 10 jobs in Rhode Island this year and is seeking $0 in tax credits.
Sure, the other jobs are probably higher-paying, but we are also hiring un- and under-employed folks from the community. If the EMoney jobs go to people who are already employed, then the net benefit to the state is not zero, but, if you factor in the cost of the tax credits, negative.
Add to that the fact that these promises of jobs ("up to" is the operative phrase) rarely come to fruition, and the only conclusion is that this is an awful, terrible, no-good approach to job creation," writes Andy Posner.
This week, Andrew Posner of Capital Good Fund strongly criticized the subsidy program. His company Capital Good Fund is a nonprofit, certified Community Development Financial Institution that helps people fix their finance and offers small loans and personalized Financial + Health Coaching to families in Rhode Island, Florida, and Delaware. Its mission is to provide equitable financial services that create pathways out of poverty.
"Good" Job Numbers
Raimondo jumped on some good job numbers, taking pride in the newest numbers, but did not address what URI's Len Lardaro has flagged as the state's biggest employment Achilles' heal -- that the number of Rhode Islanders working has not recovered to the 2005 levels.
Raimondo said this week:
"Across Rhode Island, there are visible signs of our comeback. In the last year, thanks in part to our investments and the RhodeWorks project, thousands of construction workers have returned to work. Last month alone, we added 700 new construction jobs and for the first time since 2008, more than 20,000 people in our state were working in construction.
"In all, we've added over 12,000 jobs since I took office and cut our unemployment rate to 4.5 percent, the lowest it's been since May 2001. Last month, Rhode Island employers created 2,200 new jobs and our labor force grew by 1,200.
"I will not rest until every Rhode Islander has an opportunity to compete for the jobs that businesses are creating. February's jobs report is an encouraging sign that the investments we've made in education, job training, business development and infrastructure are paying off. But it's also a sign that we need to continue to invest, and it's why I'm working tirelessly to make college and job training more affordable and accessible for every Rhode Islander."
CPAs' Oppose Raimondo's College Program
On Thursday, the RI Society of Certified Public Accountants issued a damning report. In a survey conducted this week, approximately 78% of their membership respondents expressed their opposition to the free college plan. The Society is made up of professionals from Rhode Island and southeastern New England, representing the fields of accounting, finance, insurance, academia and law.
The CPAs' statement? “A central concern expressed by RISCPA respondents was that the plan seems out of step with what RI can presently afford, as it would create one of the most ambitious college tuition subsidy programs in the country. Other concerns included the lack of research being provided to show future year costs associated with program growth, as well as the plan's minimal expectation of academic requirements or financial need eligibility restrictions placed on students.”
Raimondo's Closest Ally Quits
The biggest hit for Governor Raimondo was the resignation of Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed. She quit and took a $300,000 compensation package from the Hospital Association of Rhode Island.
The Paiva Weed departure coupled with Joe Shekarchi switching from Raimondo loyalist to Speaker Nick Mattiello's number 2, leaves the vulnerable Raimondo without a strong legislative leader to call her friend.
Democratic Governors Come Out Swinging for Raimondo Very Early
The Governor's election may be twenty months away, but an arm of the Democratic Governors Association has produced a pro-Gina Raimondo video pushing her college funding program, RI Promise Scholarship Plan. The plan is under fire from many fronts.
According the the announcement unveiling the ad, "The goal: invest in the middle class, make sure all who need training or education to get a good job can get it,” the ad says. “That’s how we ensure our new jobs go to Rhode Islanders.”
And, Some Conservative Group Launched Videos Too
A group called State Solutions has launched a video social media campaign attacking Raimondo citing that the state has the worst environment for business in America.
The voice over mispronounces Raimondo's name throughout the spot, indicating it likely has origins from a group without close ties to RI -- or else someone would have said how to pronounce the Governor's name correctly. It is running on Twitter presently.
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