Here’s what RI leaders think of Gov. Raimondo’s budget

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Gov. Gina Raimondo’s first budget proposal won initial praise from both sides of the aisle Thursday, as leaders cheered the Democrat’s plans to spur economic development without any broad-based tax increases.

Here’s a roundup of reactions from state officials, lawmakers and nonprofit leaders.

Lt Gov. Daniel McKee
Her budget maintains current levels of funding to cities and towns. It proposes a new investment of $20 million in a School Building Authority for the renovation of schools in dire need of repair. It invests in sound infrastructure by fully funding the Municipal Road and Bridge project. And, in a program developed with General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, it supports an Infrastructure Bank for projects that will make state, municipal and commercial buildings more energy-efficient.

The governor’s budget plan also makes critical investments in education. It provides $1.4 million in funding for universal full-day kindergarten in every community next year, and would direct $1 million to more than triple the number of pre-K classrooms in the next few years.

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, D-Cranston
From a general broad perspective, I like the budget. There are no broad-based tax increases; we’re making investments in education; we’re targeting tax cuts for economic development. I believe that it is a good economic budget, it’s a good budget to improve our economic condition and create jobs, so I’m very pleased.

I believe the balance was struck very well to best serve all of our constituencies, but there’s a lot of decisions that we all have to make that are difficult and hard, and certainly not ones that we’d prefer to make. But we’re governing right now. There are a lot of cuts, there are some revenue enhancements but no broad-based tax cuts, so I think the overall balance is good even though some of the decisions on that balance whether they’re on the cuts side or the revenue side are one that none of us want to consider.

Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, D-Newport
We certainly support the governor’s initiatives in education, and as the speaker said, her investments in our infrastructure, as well as a bold economic plan to move the state forward. The governor has worked together with us and we share a common vision to move Rhode Island forward.

We certainly have a challenge ahead of us in the area of Medicaid. However, it’s a challenge that also presents an opportunity to restructure the way that we deliver services to our most neediest population, and the ability to make long-term structural change instead of year after year coming back for cuts. This is an opportunity to save money and deliver better outcomes. Other states have done it, and I’m confident Rhode Island can do it as well.

House Finance Chairman Ray Gallison, D-Bristol
I’m very pleased that it’s very pro developing and expanding the economy. That’s what Speaker Mattiello started when he came in and we’re going to expand upon that. It’s important that we do job development and job growth because that’s the only way we’re going to grow. I’m also very pleased with the Social Security tax decreases are in the budget.

Senate Finance Chairman Daniel DaPonte, D-East Providence
I think it’s certainly an ambitious budget on two fronts, the first being an emphasis on economic development initiatives – we all recognize that we need not only job growth, but, I think, quality job growth, and to do that I think it’s going to require investment on the state’s part. And then the other, still the unknown in some of the details, will be the reinvention of Medicaid and trying to get the delivery of services more efficient, more effective, and trying to really reduce the out-year deficits and the structural challenges.

House Minority Leader Brian Newbery, R-North Smithfield
Overall there are a lot of good things I heard in it. Certainly there are things I don’t like, but the tone and the attitude are the way to go and I like the focus to try to do things to boost the state’s economy. One of the best things I heard in it was something Republicans have been pushing for years – doing something about our ballooning Medicaid costs. On the other hand, I know all the details aren’t filled in there, but conceptually I’m behind that completely.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza
In Providence, we need to focus on jobs and education and this proposed budget makes a strong commitment to both of those things. So that’s great for Providence. I believe that when Providence succeeds, the whole state succeeds. From what I heard today, it’s good for Providence because it’s about jobs, it’s about schools, it’s about quality of life.

Central Falls Mayor James Diossa
I think her main message was creating jobs and any municipal leader can get behind that. I’m waiting to see the details. I think she gave a great speech. Sparking the economy is what we need.

Cranston Mayor Allan Fung
There are a lot of positives that we heard from a 10,000-foot level. As municipal leaders, there’s not going to be any pain inflicted on us. Right now we’re at that point where we understanding there’s a lot challenges in the budget. Not having any added pain is certainly a relief considering what we’ve dealt with in the past. A lot is going to be in the details.

Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian
I’m glad our aid is preserved. It’s great to hear about all the tools for economic development and a high well-trained workforce. I think the governor has tried her hardest to reach out and to talk to us about what we wanted to see and I think she and her staff listened to that. Now we need to enact it and make it work. For a first budget, it’s very positive for cities and towns and that’s a great message for us to take back.

Rep. Carlos Tobon, D-Pawtucket
It gives me the opportunity to imagine the possibilities and lets me know we’re with the right team. I felt very good knowing that Speaker Mattiello is leading us and now to know that a lot of things that I believe in, the governor is talking about. I know we’re going in the right direction.

Rep. Aaron Regunberg, D-Providence
There’s a lot in there that sounded good to me. I’ve been beating the school housing aid drum for a long time.

Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director of Rhode Island Kids Count
I
t was great to hear the investment in pre-K and full-day kindergarten. That’s a key to getting our kids off the right start. That was really exciting to see. The investments in early learning help us get to more third graders reading at grade level and that’s a pivotal point for getting kids through high school.

James Nyberg, director of LeadingAge RI
While we understand the constraints and challenges that the Raimondo administration was working under when crafting this budget, the proposed Medicaid rate cuts totaling $18 million to nursing homes is very severe, plus a potential additional $5 million in other funding reductions. When we are talking about jobs, it is also important to note that nursing homes provide hands-on care to the most frail in our state through nursing and other staff. Indeed, the majority of funds that nursing homes receive goes to direct care staffing.

We are worried about the effects of these cuts on staffing in nursing homes, because we know that better staffing means better quality of care. A cut of this magnitude could adversely affect the quality of care that all nursing home residents receive, whether they are on Medicaid or not. That said, we understand the short and long term financial challenges to Medicaid, while also recognizing the needs of our growing older population, and look forward to working with the governor and the General Assembly to address our Medicaid budget issues – short term and long term and find ways to better allocate our scarce resources to care for the elderly.

Michael R. Souza, Hospital Association of Rhode Island
The Hospital Association of Rhode Island and its members applaud Governor Raimondo’s commitment to transforming our health care delivery system. Unfortunately, hospitals will face $54 million in cuts that will further destabilize fragile hospitals employing nearly 20,000 health care professionals. We are grateful that the governor recognizes the need for long-term solutions and look forward to working with the Working Group to Reinvent Medicaid to identify changes that will provide Rhode Islanders with quality health care while controlling costs.

Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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