After highlighting a number of accomplishments from her first term as Governor, including what she described as a four-year economic turnaround, the success of the infrastructure project Roadworks, a middle-class tax cut, expansions at T.F. Green airport, the operation of the first offshore wind farm in the United States, and arriving at “more jobs than Rhode Island has ever had” Governor Gina Raimondo declared that her administration had “ignited a comeback of this great state and economy”.
However, she quickly shifted the tone of the address towards what she intends to accomplish during her second term, noting that there is “so, so much work to do.”
“Every Rhode Islander deserves a shot at a good job” Raimondo stated, setting the foundation for the crux of her message, which hinged upon education and jobs training as the building blocks of a “resilient and inclusive economy” that is both “business friendly and friendly to employees”.
The Governor announced that she would be proposing a budget on Thursday that would include expanded investments in jobs incentive programs (citing Raimondo-courted firm eMoney’s success utilizing an existing training incentive program), vocational training (which she announced had experienced a 60% increase in participation in Rhode Island), adult job training for “anyone that wants it” and an expansion of the free college tuition initiative underway at CCRI to include RIC.
She placed heavy emphasis on the importance of universal pre-K education, mirroring Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza’s call to implement such a program, and citing her own personal experience as a mother.
Describing the recent RICAS standardized test results as “not acceptable, not good enough for our kids”, the Governor announced that she will propose an additional 30 million dollars in public educational funding. She also acknowledged that, unlike Massachusetts, who are 25 years into a massive educational and assessment overhaul, Rhode Island has been woefully inconsistent in how it measures student performance, having only adopted the RICAS exam in 2017.
Citing a need for a healthy workforce, Governor Raimondo continued her support for accessible healthcare, offering that The Affordable Care Act is “functioning better in Rhode Island than in almost any other state”, and that she will work to protect Rhode Islanders that depend on the Act from potential shifts in policy at the federal level. She announced that she will propose funding to increase efforts to combat the opioid crisis.
The Governor also declared Rhode Island to a be a national leader in mental health care, but that such care should be more widespread in availability, particularly to students, who she says face increased mental health burdens caused by the “pace of today” and the looming threat of gun violence.
She announced that she will propose a comprehensive package of gun safety reforms, and called for members of The General Assembly to swiftly pass those bills, the content of which she described as fundamentally supported by most Rhode Islanders.
To a raucous applause, the Governor shifted from earlier, less-clear positions on abortion rights, in stating that a woman’s right to choose ought to be codified into Rhode Island law.
She also declared that Rhode Islanders will see a decrease in the loathed car-tax.
Laying out a plan fundamentally focused on workforce development, Governor Raimondo made that case that future industries, companies and development will be entirely staked upon the readiness of Rhode Islanders to be highly skilled in areas that employers and developers will require. Without an adequate workforce, the Governor argued, employers and entrepreneurs will simply look elsewhere to operate, leaving Rhode Island without economic engines and a bleak overall outlook. However, through a series of proposals, the Governor displayed great optimism that she and her elected colleagues were ready to “get to work” in “profoundly shaping and strengthening” Rhode Island.
Bill Bartholomew is a musician and broadcaster based in Providence, RI. In addition to his Bartholomewtown Podcast and other projects, he hosts a weekly, live talk show Tuesday evenings at 6pm on 990wbob.com.
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