GoLocalProv News Team and Kate Nagle
“The State’s economy continued to make progress in 2016. Rhode Island created 5,800 jobs last year, and the unemployment rate fell to its lowest point since the beginning of the Great Recession,” said Raimondo’s office on Thursday, when it introduced the budget proposal to the General Assembly that includes two years free tuition at a state college, an increase in the minimum wage, a reduction in the car tax, and more “tools” to incentivize private companies to come to Rhode Island.Governor Gina Raimondo introduced her budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 on Thursday, which she said “focuses on building on our strong momentum and creating a better Rhode Island for working families and businesses.”
Despite claims about economic growth, Rhode Island got some sobering news in the recent jobs numbers announced on Thursday. The number of employed Rhode Island residents in December 2016 was 525,500, down 800 from the November number of 526,300, according to the RI Department of Labor and Training.
“The Governor’s budget provides for nearly three quarters of a billion dollars in deficits over the next 5 years,” said Pam Gencarella with taxpayer advocacy group OSTPA. ”In what world does any business-minded person believe that a prosperous future is in store for Rhode Islanders when our government actually makes plans to create an economic landscape that looks a lot like bankruptcy? More tax and spend policies, with no effort at reducing the cost of doing business in the state. As a matter of fact, the plan is to increase the cost of doing business by increasing the minimum wage. However, the hand-picked corporate giveaways continue unabated.”
Progressive organizations, however, were buoyed by elements of the budget proposal — Rachel Flum with the RI Economic Progress Institute offered the following.
“While we will need to look at the full budget in more detail over the rest of the week, here are our initial take-aways — we are pleased the Governor’s budget includes a focus on working families, including increasing the minimum wage and wages for home health-aids and staff who care for people with disabilities,” said Flum. “These policies not only help people who are working hard earn wages more likely to support a family, but ensure these workers don’t go across the border for similar jobs that pay better wages. We are also glad to see the investment in child care and early learning and the focus on ensuring more Rhode Islanders can complete college or a certificate program. What’s missing, however, is an investment in a group of the workers of today – the thousands of adults who are on waiting lists to improve their English language or basic skills.”
“As the state focuses on the car tax, we are disappointed to see that this budget does not provide relief for the lowest income Rhode Islanders who cannot afford a car and we have concerns about the impact this proposal will have on the erosion of state revenue,” said Flum. “We are also disappointed to see that this budget does not offer continued support for the poorest seniors and people with disabilities through the maintenance of the no-fare bus pass.”And while the focus on the reduction (or elimination) of the car tax has been mainly on savings to owners, Flum pointed out another side.