Alert 4-25-16


Legislative Alert

Problems Plague RI When It Comes To Delivering New Systems.  Will On-Line Voter Registration Be Any Different?

The Division of Taxation has come under fire recently for its inability to process tax refunds in a timely manner. But this year is not the first time that the Division of Taxation has blamed its problems on systems issues. Last year, the Division  blamed a system glitch for charging some taxpayers twice for amounts owed the government. And that’s not the only systems problems Rhode Islanders have witnessed.

In developing the Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP), the state has experienced mega cost overruns, not to mention delays. The Speaker himself has voiced serious concerns about the tripling of the UHIP project budget.

Then, of course, there is the DMV  systems problem. Begun at least as early as 8 years ago, the cost of the project to update DMV systems stands at about 70% higher than the original estimate and is at least 6 years behind in its delivery date. 

It seems that RI state government finds it impossible to implement new systems in a timely and efficient manner. Yet, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, in her 10th issue of “Nellie’s Notes”, says that her office can have a new on-line voter registration system, in good operating order, up and running by the time it is needed for the 2016 electionsDo you have faith in a new system for on-line voter registration, with its incumbent protections for fraud detection, to be delivered efficiently and on time?

30 Toll Gantries.  Wait, What?

Last week, Representative MacBeth called on the federal government to take a deep breath and really look at what tolling would do to the economy. She called for a “moratorium upon all new interstate tolls until a formal Congressional study on the economic consequences of the toll tax can be conducted.”  We thank Representative MacBeth (and current Congressional candidate) for her leadership on this issue.

And speaking of tolls, in an interview with WPRO's Anita Baffoni, Governor Raimondo, when referring to the prospect of putting up a “test” toll gantry, commented that “Certainly, you would want to put up one toll and not spend a lot of money to test it before putting up 30 gantries…”.  That begs the question, at what point did the administration go from erecting 14 gantries to erecting 30 gantries? 

Governor’s Poll Ratings Drop Precipitously.  Is That Due To Toll Plan?

The long awaited Brown poll shows that Governor Raimondo, originally put into office with 40% of the vote, has an approval rate of just 30%. Only five months ago, Morning Consult had Raimondo with a 46% approval. So what has happened in between November and now?  Well, the Governor’s Truck Toll plan was passed, the roll out of the state’s advertising campaign was seriously botched and her conflicted appointment of a former representative (Lally) has finally since resigned his post.

Certainly the toll issue has created a considerable backlash when it comes to voter approval of the Governor’s plan. OSTPA hopes that both the governor and the General Assembly members reflect on this poll, along with Representative MacBeth’s demand to take a serious look at the ramifications of implementing truck tolls in a state whose economic well being is precarious at best.

Should Providence Just Go Bankrupt?

We are all familiar with the fact that the City of Providence is, for all intents and purposes, bankrupt.  But elected officials for years have pretended that their quick fixes and small changes could put Providence on a more sound financial footing.

Now, with a grant from the White House, a report has been issued from the National Research Network, a component of the White House’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative,
stating in no uncertain terms, that Providence’s deficit will grow to nearly $200 million in just 10 short years. And that’s before layering on the unfunded OPEB (Other post retirement benefits). 

While the Providence Mayor refers to this as a ‘financial imbalance’, he explains how the structural deficit came about. In a Brown University article Elorza cites the reasons for the structural deficits - unfunded pensions (public union), healthcare systems (public union) and the high carrying cost of the public workforce (public union).  He notes that state aid has decreased over time, but it has in every other city and town as well. 

What Does All Of This Mean To The RI Taxpayer?

The report on Providence notes the obscenely high commercial tax rates, and we know that Providence residents pay incredibly high taxes as well. So where will the money come to cover the deficit? The report refers to the expensive ESL programs (which are needed because Providence is a sanctuary city), the fact that the city maintains a high percentage of roads in their city as compared to others (don’t forget legislation has been introduced that would require the state to pick up maintenance of some of Providence’s roads) and highlights the ‘imbalance’ of the number of public safety officials (namely firefighters) as compared to other non-public safety positions. 

If there is no one left to hold the bag in Providence, and the city chooses not to file for bankruptcy, who do you think will be forced to subsidize the years of bad decisions made by Providence’s elected leaders?  The RI taxpayer. 

There is legislation in the General Assembly to change the education formula (H 7108)  being heard this Thursday, see below) so more education money is directed to cities with more low and moderate income housing. The General Assembly has already set the precedent of helping to bail out the Central Falls pension, not once, but twice, when that city filed for bankruptcy.  And as we mentioned earlier, there have been bills introduced to tap into the RI taxpayers for more money to repair and maintain local Providence roads. 

So even if you are not a Providence resident, you should be afraid, very afraid, about the path Providence chooses. And, if that path does not include a beeline to bankruptcy so the city can start from ground zero, expect your wallet to be pried open, and soon.

Voting In The House This Week.

Among other legislation, H 7551, which would allow cities and towns to borrow ANY AMOUNT from the state’s School Building Authority, WITHOUT VOTER APPROVAL will be voted on the House floor on Tuesday, April 26.

If you follow RhodeMap RI, H 7696, a bill that extends the date one year for local comprehensive plans to be brought into conformance with the State Plan (ie. RhodeMap RI) will be voted on Wednesday, April 27th.  Representative Shekarchi’s Unified Development Review bill (H 7833) was passed out of the House Municipal Government Committee two weeks ago.


Legislative Hearings 4/26/16 - 4/28/16

Hearings this week include a bill for in-state tuition for illegal aliens, a bill to socialize healthcare in RI (think about how well the DMV and the Division of Taxation are run), a number of bills to further increase daycare subsidies, a bill to attack pension reform, and a bill to provide sanctuary cities with more state education aid. Ain't that special?


House Health, Education and Welfare   Chairman McNamara  
Room 101, rise (4:30)

H 8055 Requires welfare recipients to perform 20 hours of community service a month.

Sponsor: Roberts

House Finance   Chairman Gallison  
Room 35, rise (4:30)

H 7381 Creates socialized medicine in the State of RI - The RI Comprehensive Insurance Program CHIP)

Sponsors: Regunberg, Amore, Handy, Tanzi and Almeida

H 7823 Creates a scheme to increase daycare subsidies.

Sponsors: Diaz, Blazejewski, Regunberg, Slater and Almeida

H 7115 More increases in daycare subsidies.

Sponsors: Blazejewski, Ruggiero, Barros, Morin and Diaz

H 7236 Adds to daycare subsidies.

Sponsors: Diaz, Ruggiero, Naughton, Messier and Blazejewski

Senate Housing & Municipal Government  Chairman Pichardo  
Room, Senate Lounge, rise (4:30)

S 2357 Repeals the laws providing housing authorities and redevelopment agencies to loan money for constructing low income housing.

Sponsor: Pagliarini

S 2876 Mandates that low and moderate income housing is considered to exist in an urban city or town where at least 3,000 occupied year-round rental units, reduced from 5,000 units, represent more than 15% of the total units or represent more than 10% in other cities or towns.

Sponsor: Algiere

THU,  APR 28           

House Finance   Chairman Gallison 
Room 35, rise (4:30)

H 7181 Attacks pension reform to significantly increase minimum benefits and add back COLA’s to spouses of retired teachers.

Sponsors: Amore, Fogarty, Lombardi and Canario

H 7108 Increases education aid to a community based on the community’s meeting and surpassing 10% goal of affordable housing.

Sponsors: Morin, Casey, Maldonado, Phillips and Carson

H 7211 Provides $20 million to School Building Authority Fund.

Sponsors: Regunberg, Fogarty, Hull, O’Brien and Morin

H 7374 Provides instate tuition for illegal aliens.

Sponsors: Diaz, Slater, Ajello, Maldonado and Williams

H 7545 Attacks pension reform allowing state employees who were eligible to retire at June 20, 2012 to remain in the pension plan rather than the defined contribution plan.

Sponsor: Lima

H 7546 Would require the Auditor General to perform a ten year forensic audit of the state pension retirement plan.

Sponsors: Lima, O’Brien, Casey, Morin and Messier

H 8006  A common sense mandate that non-recurring capital expenses not be included in the annual budget or the maintenance of effort in School budgets. 

Sponsors: Chippendale, Winfield and Keable

House Environmental and Natural Resources  Chairman Handy  
Room 205, rise (4:30)

H 8075 Allows the agricultural lands preservation commission to resell land without being subject to the first right to purchase by the municipality.

Sponsors: Naughton, Ajello, Handy, Amore and Fogarty

Senate Finance  Chairman DaPonte  
Room, Senate Lounge, rise (4:30)

Numerous bills to exempt veteran’s from taxes:

S 2027

S 2047

S 2048

S 2149

S 2206

S 2345

S 2354

S 2445

S 2451

S 2684


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