Categories

Subscribe!

headshot

Read: RI State of the State & Republican Response

State of the State Address

Raimondo’s 2020 State of the State

Speaker Mattiello, Senate President Ruggerio, members of the House and Senate; members of the Judiciary; my Cabinet, my wonderful family; and my fellow Rhode Islanders. 

Tonight, I stand before you truly optimistic about our future. In the past few years, we’ve dug our way out of a deep economic hole and are preparing Rhode Islanders for success in a fast-changing economy.

Right now in Rhode Island, we have more than half a million jobs. That’s more jobs than at any time ever in our state’s history. Unemployment is at its lowest point in three decades.

Just think about that. That means our economy today is the strongest it’s been in a generation. It hasn’t always been that way. In fact, a few years ago our neighboring states had strong economies, but we didn’t. So what’s changed?

What’s changed is that we’ve put aside the old way of doing business and we’re working together to tackle our biggest challenges. And because of our hard work, the state of our state is strong.

Now what we have to do is maintain that economic momentum into the future. We need to stick with what is working – like investing in job training and education, and guaranteeing affordable, quality healthcare for all Rhode Islanders. But we also have to embrace innovation in all that we do, from the jobs we bring here to the way we run our government. We’re changing lives and making Rhode Island more competitive. Our new approach is a proven success.

A couple years ago in the midst of setbacks, we deepened our commitment to the Blackstone Valley, and it’s beginning to pay off. A few months ago, we cut the ribbon on a new manufacturing training center at Davies High School in Lincoln.

We are finally building the Pawtucket-Central Falls rail station. And a few weeks ago, we announced the largest economic development project in Pawtucket’s history, including a new professional soccer stadium. It will revive downtown and create thousands of jobs. 

For years, the land made available when we moved Route 195 was just a vacant lot. Today, it’s home to a vibrant Innovation Center – a physical symbol of our economic future.

We’ve made it easier to do business in Rhode Island, cutting thousands of pages of regulations and providing 120 loans to small business – more than half of which have gone to women and minority-owned businesses. That small business loan fund didn’t even exist when I became governor.

We’ve added thousands of jobs at the Quonset Business Park. Electric Boat just keeps on growing, and more than two dozen companies have moved or expanded there. In fact, Quonset is bursting at the seams and we need more industrial space. Tonight, I’m announcing a bond to develop new industrial sites all across Rhode Island. It’s a proven success. So let’s do more of it.

We’ve made all this progress while cutting taxes every year. So let’s continue on that path by cutting the car tax again this year for every single Rhode Islander. Let’s also cut taxes for small businesses, who for almost 25 years saw no relief from their unemployment insurance taxes. Tonight, I’m proud to announce the third cut in unemployment insurance taxes since I took office.

Over the past few years we’ve completely changed our approach to job training. We’ve worked in partnership with hundreds of businesses. As a result, we’ve trained nearly seven thousand Rhode Islanders for good careers.

In fact, because of this new approach, 7 out of 10 people trained find a good job right away. For some, this training has been truly life-changing. Take Jennifer Brown from Warwick. Like my dad, Jennifer started her career in jewelry manufacturing. When those jobs left Rhode Island, she got a job at a bank – until that job was eliminated. Also like my dad, Jennifer was in her mid-50s and found herself looking for a new career. Thanks to our new job training, she was able to start over.

Today Jennifer works at Mearthane Products in Cranston. She says we gave her skills for a new career. But, even more than that, she has confidence, hope, and optimism that she never thought she’d have again. Because of the success of this new approach to job training, Rhode Island businesses are calling on us to expand it. They tell us they need it to find the right talent. So let’s do it. Tonight, I’m proposing expanding the Real Jobs RI initiative. It has a proven track record of success. Can’t we all agree that every Rhode Islander deserves a shot at getting a good job?

I also hear from Rhode Islanders about the importance of transportation and infrastructure. Businesses want to grow, and people want to live, in well-connected communities. Thanks to RhodeWorks, we’re fixing our roads quicker than we ever have. Projects that used to sit on the drawing board for years, like the 6-10 connector, are finally under construction. In fact, in the last four years, we’ve fixed more than 100 roads and bridges, and right now, we’re fixing another 100. 

Now, just imagine what Rhode Island would look like if we improved our trains, buses, and public transit the same way we’ve tackled fixing our roads and bridges. Imagine a day when high speed commuter rail connects Providence to Boston; when electric buses powered by solar panels zip through dedicated bus lanes.

That’s within our grasp right now. It’s not 10 or 20 years down the road. It’s today. We came together to change the way we invest in roads and bridges. Now let’s take that same proven approach to improve our public transportation for every Rhode Islander.

Let’s also invest in our beaches, parks and in our drinking water. Like so many Rhode Islanders, my family’s memories have been made on our beaches. Don’t you think it’s time to renovate our tired bathrooms at our state beaches and fix the pavilions and concessions? I think it’s time to make a once-in-a-generation investment in our beaches. Millions flock to our beaches every summer. So, let’s protect this beauty – the beauty that sets Rhode Island apart.

And if we want to ensure Rhode Island’s beauty is enjoyed for generations to come, we have to address climate change with urgency.

About three years ago I set an ambitious goal to increase our clean energy ten-fold by the end of 2020. Tonight, I’m proud to tell you that by the end of the year, we’ll exceed that goal. We’re the nation’s leader in offshore wind, and in a few years, we’ll have enough offshore wind energy to power half of the homes in Rhode Island. It’s time to set our sights higher. This week I’ll sign an executive order to make Rhode Island the first state in America to be powered by 100% renewable energy by the end of this decade.

You know, from the day I became governor, so many people warned me to stay away from the toughest challenges. They said: It might be too difficult, too controversial. Others have already tried, and it hasn’t worked. But improving education for our children cannot wait – and we cannot think small. I’m committed to doing whatever it takes to set public education on a better path.

Now I know our students are capable and our teachers are dedicated. I’ve been in classrooms all over the state and I’ve seen great work happening. We need to build on what’s working and fix what isn’t working.

We’re starting to see some results. Last year Rhode Island saw improvements in third-grade reading scores – a key indicator of a child’s future classroom success. But we still lag behind Massachusetts. We’re behind because for decades our decision-making lacked direction, and too often we shied away from the most difficult decisions. Those days are over.

We have a moral and an economic obligation to do better by our kids. Nowhere is our challenge more obvious than in our capital city. Providence’s test scores last year were a call to action for all of us. The deeper we dig, the more we see a system in crisis. No consistent curriculum. Not enough student learning. Brown drinking water. Bats in classrooms. Our teachers and our students are working hard every single day in a system that’s broken. They deserve to know they’re not alone, and they deserve better. So we took action with unprecedented state intervention. We’ve begun the hard work of transforming a system that has failed students, teachers and families for decades.

We’re moving to high-quality curricula across the district; expanding career education and college-level classes; making smarter investments in our buildings so everyone can be safe. Most important, we will end the culture of low expectations for our kids. Students, teachers, parents, and the community – you are the ones driving this change, and I want to thank you. It’s only going to work if you stay at the table. 

I also want you to know our work is certainly not limited to Providence. We are every bit as focused on improving outcomes for every child in every school district across our state. We’re applying the lessons learned to make schools better everywhere. Every single one of us has a stake in improving outcomes in all of our schools. Ask yourself: What can I do to support the work?

We have to challenge ourselves to see beyond the borders of our own city or town. Of course, we all want the best for our own children. But we also all have a stake in the future of the child in the next town or on the other side of the state. These kids are our future – our future teachers, police officers, doctors, and computer programmers. Schools in every community have to do better, so tonight, I am announcing an additional $30 million to support students and teachers in every community. In every district across the state, we’ll invest in high-quality curricula and ensure more students have access to advanced classes in high school. We’ll invest to support multilingual learners for whom the playing field is still devastatingly unequal. We’ll increase the number of mental health professionals in our schools – so children’s learning needs are met.

We all know that having a good teacher can change your life. So we’re going to do more to support our teachers. That means providing them more professional development and mental health training – and doing more to keep science and math teachers in Rhode Island by helping them out with their student loans.

A very bright spot in our education system is our public PreK. Rhode Island is a nationally recognized leader. The problem is, for too many people, it’s unaffordable. Parents of young children routinely spend a quarter of their income on childcare. In fact, chances are if you’re a parent of two or three kids, you’re paying more for child care than you are for your rent.

Ashleigh Ortiz couldn’t afford it. She’s a working mom, who recently went back to school to become a nurse. Her oldest son didn’t get to go to PreK because it was too expensive. Her two younger children did, and they are thriving thanks to public PreK classrooms in Woonsocket.

So let’s invest in what we know works. Kids shouldn’t have to be lucky or rich to get a strong start. Tonight, I’m proposing a more than 50% increase in the number of high-quality public PreK classrooms throughout the state. That’s taking a big step forward toward our goal of Universal PreK for every 4-year-old in Rhode Island. Now, in order to do this, we actually need to build more high-quality classrooms. The lack of available space is one of the greatest barriers to expanding PreK and high-quality child care. Tonight, I’m calling for a bond to build these spaces for our kids. Massachusetts broke through the barrier with a similar successful program, and our kids deserve the same.

The only way to give our children a shot at a bright future – and to give our businesses access to talent that they need – is to make sure every Rhode Islander can continue their education past high school. A few years ago, we tried something new to help more young people get a college degree and training for a good job. We enabled high school graduates to enroll at CCRI tuition-free. At that time, it was an innovative approach few states had taken. But since then, more have followed our lead.

Today, the Promise Scholarship is a proven success. CCRI’s graduation rate has tripled. Statewide, we hit a record: more students than ever are enrolling in college. In fact, our very own CCRI recently earned the distinction of best two-year college in America. That’s the good news. But there’s a risk. That scholarship is set to expire. If we don’t take action now, this year’s high school seniors will be the last class of Promise scholars. We’ll be pulling the rug right out from under all of our other high school students, and we’ll be putting an end to a proven success.

Economic experts agree the most important thing we can do to strengthen our economy is to have a more educated workforce. We can’t go backward. Let’s make the Promise Scholarship permanent and cement affordable higher education and job training into the very foundation of our economy. We can’t talk about taking care of our children without thinking about our most vulnerable. Too many kids in Rhode Island live without a stable, loving home. Many of them live in the shadow of trauma or addiction. They arrive on our doorstep through no fault of their own. We do what any of you would do. We take care of them.

Tonight, I am proposing that we make additional investments to strengthen our child welfare system so that we can meet our obligation to the kids in our care. This investment will support our dedicated staff on the front lines, allow us to recruit and license more foster families so we can get more kids out of group homes, and make sure that no child remains in limbo a day longer than necessary.

If children can’t be reunited with their biological parents, it’s on us to find them a stable, loving family that they can call their own. Tonight, I’m announcing a new initiative to find and support more foster and adoptive homes. No one needs our love more than these kids. This is my commitment, and I’m asking that you make it yours too.

As every parent knows, we also have to protect our kids from the risks of vaping. Last year, facing a developing public health crisis, I took immediate action to temporarily ban flavored e-cigarettes. Public health experts tell us these dangers are real. Let’s make this ban permanent and protect our children.

When we say everyone deserves a shot, that really means everyone. We’re doing that in Rhode Island by securing access to health care. When I became governor, we decided to keep running our own state health exchange instead of giving it to the federal government. Because of that decision – and a lot of hard work – almost 97% of Rhode Islanders have health insurance. That’s higher than almost any other state. While premiums are increasing across the country, here in Rhode Island most premiums will decrease this year on our exchange. No one should have to choose between going to the doctor and buying groceries. 

Since I’ve been governor, we’ve raised the minimum wage three times. Our hardest working Rhode Islanders deserve a raise. Let’s do it again this year. At the same time, let’s expand the earned income tax credit so hardworking Rhode Islanders can keep more of their money in their pockets. No one who works full time should live in poverty.

No one should struggle to keep a roof over their head either, and right now too many working families do. This affects everyone: the young working couple who struggle to be good employees because they don’t have stable housing; small businesses that struggle to recruit people who are priced out of the community; even kids who fall asleep in class because they slept on a relative’s couch the night before.

Our housing shortage threatens all of the economic progress we’ve made. This year I propose a housing bond and — for the first time ever in Rhode Island — a dedicated funding stream to build more housing. Nearly every other state already has this. Let’s do it, and let’s get to work building more homes.

Protecting our future means protecting our neighborhoods, workplaces and schools from gun violence. It’s a nationwide crisis that in the past few weeks has hit very close to home in Westerly and Pawtucket. Even one tragedy with an untraceable, homemade firearm is one too many. Loopholes that allow extremely dangerous people to get guns need to be closed. Military-style assault weapons don’t belong in our communities and should be banned. So this year, I will once again propose a comprehensive package of gun reforms. Stand with me and keep Rhode Island safe.

As we tackle these defining issues of our time, we need reforms that ensure citizens and businesses have confidence in their leaders. That means it is time to pass line item veto. We know this is something the vast majority of Rhode Islanders want. Nearly every other state uses line item veto to reduce waste in government spending and corruption – and to ensure that tax dollars help all citizens, not just those with connections. Let’s restore Rhode Islanders’ confidence in government and put line item veto on the ballot.

As we sit here tonight, imagine yourselves 20 years down the road. It’s 2040 in Rhode Island. What do you see? Maybe your kids are grown. Maybe you’ve retired. Maybe you’ve started a new career, bought a house or started a family. I see a Rhode Island where the opportunity for an excellent education from PreK to college is guaranteed for everyone. Our public schools are thriving. Our economy is booming because of our educated workforce. High-speed rail and electric buses make it easy to commute across the state and across the region.

I see a Rhode Island where young couples, unburdened by student loans, can afford to buy their first home. Headlines about gun violence don’t fill the news anymore, and everyone has access to health care.

We are on track to make this vision a reality, and we’re going to get there if we continue to invest in what works. So, let’s find the courage to stay on this path and strengthen our state for decades to come. This bright future is ours if we build it together.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless Rhode Island.

REPUBLICAN STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS

Good evening, I’m Blake Filippi, the Leader of the Republican Caucus in your House of Representatives.

Please join me for 10 minutes as we address some of the most important issue we face.

————————-

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Civil rights challenge of our time is access to a quality education.

Rhode Island has a two different education systems: if you live in the right zip code or have the means to send your family to private school, they will most likely get a good education and have limitless potential.

If you don’t live in the right zip code, and can’t afford private school, your family faces an uncertain future, lacking social mobility.

Martin Luther King understood that legal equality isn’t enough – there must also be economic opportunity: he said “What does it profit someone to sit at an integrated lunch counter if they don’t have enough money to buy a hamburger.”

——————

Our primary civic duty must be to fix our education system, and it must take precedence over any other government programs – and any other interest groups.

Our children must come first.

——————-

We have watched the necessary state takeover of the Providence School system, with an estimated turn-around time of 5 to 10 years – and there are many other failing schools now eligible for intervention .

But a state takeover isn’t the cure all. 

The state took over the Central Falls school department over 25 years ago, and it is still one of the worst performing school systems in the state.

Indeed, our Governor and Secretary of State, who live in Providence, send their children to private schools — as does our State Commissioner of Education.

In fact, fewer than half of the school-aged children of elected officials from Providence attend traditional public schools.

And we cannot fault them for this – I would do the same!

But we can fault them if they oppose these same choices for parents in failing schools who do not have the resources to send their kids elsewhere.

We cannot expect these parents to wait 5 to 10 years for a state intervention with an uncertain outcome.

Frederick Douglas observed that “it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

Let us come together now to build strong children, and in turn, a strong future for Rhode Island.

————–

Here’s how: Republicans will empower families in failing schools to send their children to performing schools, within, or outside, their existing district. 

If another school has space, it will have the option to receive these students, and the money will follow the child.

Republicans trust families most to do what is best for their children, rather than being stuck in a failing school . . . with no alternatives.

——————

Republicans will also submit legislation to create focused “Language Academies” to address the English as second language crisis we face. Many school districts are inundated with children that cannot speak English – driving up the cost and downgrading the quality of education for all children.

State Language academies will focus on English proficiency. Once proficient, students will matriculate back to their sending school district, where they can then begin their careers as lifelong learners.

———–

We will mitigate the costs for these proposals, such as transportation costs, with a new tax on universities and colleges related to their endowments.

Right now, Rhode Island universities and colleges largely do not pay property taxes.

Brown University sits on over $1 Billion Dollars of real estate in Providence, with an over $4 Billion Dollar investment portfolio . . . yet it is largely exempt from property taxes that would help to fund the Providence School system.

This is intolerable, not just for Providence residents, but for everyone in Rhode Island that funds the annual $324 Million dollars in state aid to Providence and its schools.

It’s time for our local universities and colleges with substantial endowments to share in the cost of educating the next generation of higher education learners.

————

Our college graduates also face a college loan crisis brought on by overpriced tuitions and government-sponsored student loans.

While we cannot fix this problem on the state level, we can mitigate its impacts on our citizens.

Here’s how: Republicans have long been opposed to the State’s robust corporate welfare programs — handouts of taxpayer money to various special interests.

We give $20 million per year to the Hollywood movie industry!

Our position is this: while we oppose corporate welfare, if our leaders see fit to appropriate it in our yearly budgets, our children and neighbors struggling to pay off college loans get the first bite at those monies — with a $1000 per year tax credit on their student loan payments.

Whatever is left over would then be available for the corporate special interests that sought the money in the first place.  

————–

We also need to make sure the next generation of Rhode Islanders can find meaningful pursuits — right here at home.

One of our biggest exports is our children – and it is heartbreaking when Rhode Islanders must move away to find a job.

It’s no coincidence that Boston is booming, while our tallest building stands empty.

This is the result of our hostile business climate. Many times, it does not make sense to invest in Rhode Island unless you can obtain handouts of taxpayer funded corporate welfare.

Not only is it morally wrong to hand out our money to businesses, it further scares away other investment that does not want to compete against those getting public money.

We must enact intelligent tax policies and regulatory reform that everyone can advantage of — that will nurture local and out of state investment, and create the ground-up businesses development our state needs.

——————

We do have a housing crisis in this state – and it is directly related to Rhode Island’s failure to attract capital investment.

Right now, good, bad, or indifferent, we have laws on the books that allow for-profit developers to bypass local zoning in order to build dense housing with an affordable component – this is in nearly every town.

That’s on the books right now. 

The problem is that people don’t want to invest Rhode Island.

If we fix the fundamentals of our economy, the housing crisis will be fixed by private investment responding to the pent-up demand.

We don’t need more taxpayer money and bonding – we need to nurture private investment.

——————

We also must act decisively to stem the tide of our seniors leaving for other states that do not tax their retirement income or life’s work when they die.

When seniors depart, they take with them their wealth, spending, business contacts, and mentorship for the next generations. They’re not going to Florida solely for the weather.

Seniors largely leave because it is in their financial interest to do so. Just today Wallet Hub rated Rhode Island the 4th least affordable state to retire in:

And we cannot blame seniors for leaving and doing what is best for their families – but we can enact pro-retiree policies to keep them here – similar to many other states – like not taxing retirement income and providing greater estate tax exemptions.

———————

The outflow of our educated youth, businesses and seniors has created serious budgetary constraints in our state – yet our budget continues to balloon – now at 10 Billion dollars – that’s $10,000 for every man, woman and child, not even including your local taxes.

Even with our $10 billion budget, we are failing to adequately provide for core government functions, like taking care of children in DCYF custody, honoring our veterans, and maintaining public infrastructure.

The simple fact is that we fail to efficiently operate and monitor government spending.

Perhaps most concerning is that Rhode Island faces a $200 Million deficit – we’re taking in $200M less than we need to fund our $10 Billion dollar budget.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts has a $1 Billion surplus.

We are facing this deficit during one of the greatest economic expansions our country has experienced – we should be having surpluses right now, like Massachusetts.

We must get our fiscal house in order, because we a setting up government expenditures that will not be able to survive an economic downturn – and there will be immense pain from drastic cuts in the event of a recession.

Republicans have long called for:

          – A line item veto to empower the governor to eliminate portions of the legislatively enacted budget,

         – An independent office of inspector general to root out waste,

         – And zero based-budgeting that requires every department to annually justify its expenditures – like your family does.

These smart initiatives are great start to stem the dramatic annual increases we see in our state budget, protect us from recession, and keep more money in your wallet.

———–

People want to live here, if they can afford it. One reason is our environment – that is a social and economic treasure, which must be protected.

Yet, we’ve taken our eyes off important local environmental issues that we have the ability measurably impact, like:

         – Protecting our eroding shorelines;

         – Repairing dams that are hazards to entire communities;

         – Managing our forests that are primed for fires similar to the 1942 disaster;

         – Adequately funding the Department of Environmental Management and our parks — which we have been gutted in recent years;

         -And ensuring our water quality – like cleaning the lead out of the pipes in our urban centers which is poisoning our children,

         – and dealing with the hazardous industrial chemicals – which have been found in our water supplies from Cumberland to Charlestown

————-

While we do have a beautiful environment, we must be able to enjoy it, and that includes being able to exercise our constitutional right to access our shoreline in this Ocean State.  

There is a lack of clarity where private property ends and the public shoreline begins – all over this state – and this has led to unnecessary conflict.

Republicans will submit smart proposals that protect our citizens’ constitutional right to access their shoreline, while respecting private property.

————

Now that it is 2020 and an election year is upon us, we must act to protect the sanctity of our elections.

Right now, we allow Senate and House leadership to draw up our Senate and House legislative districts – benefiting those in power at the expense of our right to choose our representatives.

It’s called gerrymandering, and it is done to the extreme here.

We fully support Common Cause’s initiative for a citizen’s commission to draw legislative districts, not legislators, which will vindicate our most fundamental right to vote in this Republic.

———

Our citizens also face significant privacy challenges in this modern era.

Privacy is a cornerstone of a free society.

However, right now, government agents do not need a warrant to access your internet search history.

Republicans have, and will continue, to advance legislation to protect your digital privacy, including what you read on the internet, from prying government eyes absent a warrant signed by a judge.

———–

Tonight, we’ve laid forth specific policy initiatives to solve some of the most pressing issues we face.

Perhaps more important is how we together accomplish these goals, and others, in the months and years ahead. 

Many times we Rhode Islanders believe there is little hope and that our voices don’t matter – that our path is written by others in rooms we can’t access.

I’m here to tell you that there is nothing further from the truth — and that people get the government they demand in this country. 

The Rhode Island we know has an incredible revolutionary heritage. One of liberty, justice, free enterprise, and citizen activism. 

The Rhode Island we know can have future of incredible opportunity, where every child can get a great education and has a bright future, where families and businesses can thrive, and where retirees live in financial security.

This can be our future — if we demand it.

The choice is yours Rhode Island. This is your home and there is no place like it. If you too believe there is a better way, join us, demand it, fight for it, and we all share in a bright future.

Thank you, Rhode Island, and goodnight.

Posted in