PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gina Raimondo was sworn in Tuesday as the 75th governor of Rhode Island, and in attendance was the soon-to-be governor of Massachusetts.
Gov.-elect Charlie Baker will be inaugurated on Thursday, and Gov. Raimondo intends to return the favor to start forging ties between the neighboring states. Even though Rhode Island is facing a roughly $200 million deficit, Baker said his state’s is higher, and he believes working with Raimondo could help both states eliminate their red ink.
One of Raimondo’s biggest priorities as she takes office is job creation, with her state having one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. The rate isn’t quite so high in Massachusetts, but Baker realizes that a lot of work still needs to be done to get people back to work.
“We’re pleased with our overall unemployment rate, but we have significant issues in a number of parts of Massachusetts that we need to work on, and I can tell you that the number one issue I heard about from people throughout the course of our race, and I assume Gov.-elect Raimondo heard this a lot down here, is it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs,” said Baker. “A lot of people are working, but not in the jobs they thought they’d be working in, and are worried about keeping the job they have, if they do have one.”
Both Rhode Island and Massachusetts have recently seen significant spikes in electricity rates, and Baker agrees with Raimondo’s plan to regionalize energy costs as a way to lower rates.
“I absolutely believe that the New England region has to work together on energy issues,” he said. “We have some of the most significant issues that consumers and businesses, especially small businesses, face with respect to pricing, and to anticipate it was a result of our lack of delivery capacity that we’re going to see significant increases across the board in January, and I think that’s a big opportunity for us to work together on that, and I’m looking forward to working with her.”
Baker said his number one priority after being sworn in is to attacking Massachusetts’ massive budget deficit.
“We’re halfway through our state fiscal year up in Massachusetts, and the budget deficit, depending on which estimate you believe, is somewhere between $500 million and $1 billion,” he explained. “That’s on a $40 billion state budget, but that’s still a very significant number, and that will be our primary issue.”
Baker added that even though he intends to lower that deficit, his proposal won’t include raising taxes or cutting local aid.