It was a big week at the State House with the new governor rolling out her first budget proposal. Raimondo touted job creation as one of the key targets of her budgets. She also made several cuts, including her own pay. Raimondo cut her pay by 5%, basically giving back a raise that the governor’s salary was given at the beginning of the year.
Raimondo’s budget is probably not going to be so popular among smokers who may see a twenty-five cents tax increase and the Rhode Island elite will also be hit with a new tax. Raimondo is proposing a new property tax on second homes valued at more than a million dollars, cleverly coined by RINPR's Scott Mackay as the Taylor Swift Tax. One part of the budget that is likely to take some criticism is the proposed tax on vacation homes, AirBnB rentals, and bed and breakfasts. Some of the smaller coastal communities depend on these.
She also took aim at Obamacare, looking to charge a 1%- 4% fee on individual and small group health plans in Rhode Island.
Raimondo did increase spending to Rhode Island’s K-12 schools to fund Rhode Island’s education funding formula. She also wants to invest money into building new schools in Rhode Island, something she touted while on the campaign.
Nonetheless, Raimondo’s budget is probably one of the most transparent in years since she even went as far as to put it online and make it available to the general public, not just the media and politically elite. This is the first time In Rhode Island history that the governor has attempted to actively engaged the public in the budget process.
But, she has a "D" next to her name
Meanwhile, the Republicans towed the typical GOP line after Raimondo’s budget proposal saying the state has a “spending” problem and not a “revenue” problem. Well, the truth is Rhode Island has a lot of problems -- but even from a Republican perspective this budget could be much worse. The budget doesn’t seek any broad based tax increases and it actually cuts spending in the health and human services sector, something a lot of Democrats are nervous to touch.
No lobby hobbies
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea is trying to get ahead of a potentially controversial situation by warning the PawSox Owners about lobbying at the State House as they look to build a new stadium in Providence. It’s good she is being proactive because otherwise she could end up with another situation like the unregistered lobbyists in 38 Studios and if the new stadium deal ends in any controversy it is better off that she keeps her hands clean and verifies from the get-go that everyone is following the state rules. Also this is the first significant thing the new Secretary of State has done and it’s a good first move. Already she is distinguishing herself from former Secretary of State Ralph Mollis who went on a lobbyist crusade near the end of his term and later was criticized by the court.
Meanwhile, Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt scrapes away with a slap on her wrist. She was fined $750 for hiring her son and his friends to work part time for the DPW over the summer. It could have been a lot worse, and now she can just sweep the matter under the rug and continue being mayor. For her part, she also reimbursed the city for the money her son was paid.
PARCC and RIDE
Meanwhile, Representative Greg Amore is taking on the PARCC Test, proposing legislation that would allow parents to opt their children out of taking the test. It calls for the children to be given an alternative setting and not be penalized for not taking the nationally recognized test. With Deborah Gist on her way out, this might be the beginning of the end for standardized testing in Rhode Island. It might not pass but it will certainly renew the conversation.
That’s about it for now. Things will get interesting as the Governor starts touting he budget throughout the state and the General Assembly starts discussing it. I’ll be here next week, see you then.
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