Gov. Raimondo to tout ‘progress’ in annual State of the State speech tonight

Governor Raimondo delivers her State of the State in 2017.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Gov. Gina Raimondo will deliver her State of the State address on Tuesday night, seeking to convince voters she is making progress on tackling the state’s problems even as her opponents ramp up their criticism ahead of the November election.

Raimondo, a first-term Democrat, is scheduled to speak at 7 p.m. at the State House before a joint session of Rhode Island’s 113 state lawmakers and other dignitaries in the House chamber. At least two of her would-be Republican opponents – Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan – are expected to be on hand.

The governor gave a preview of the speech’s themes last Friday in her weekly Facebook video address. “We’ve made progress over the last few years,” she said. “We’re not flying yet, but we are definitely going to keep moving.” She cited the unemployment rate, which has fallen from 6.5% to 4.3% since she took office, and the arrival of a number of new companies as examples of forward momentum.

“I’ll be talking about how far we’ve come – but also how much further we still need to go,” she said.

The speech will set the stage for the release Thursday of Raimondo’s proposed 2018-19 state budget. She and her aides must close an estimated $260-million deficit for the current and next fiscal years as part of the tax-and-spending plan. A centerpiece of the budget is expected to be a proposal to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to repair school buildings, as proposed by a task force last year.

Republicans remain bullish on their chances of defeating Raimondo this fall, despite the advantages of incumbency and her mammoth campaign war chest. They point to her relatively weak performance when she won the 2014 election, her tepid poll numbers since then and various problems at state agencies during her tenure.

“Under Gina Raimondo, Rhode Island has been plagued by stagnant economic growth, bottom-10 business rankings, and gross mismanagement of the state’s child welfare agency, all on top of her administration’s complete disregard for transparency,” John Burke, a spokesman for the Republican Governors Association, said in an email.

“While Raimondo will undoubtedly ignore these glaring failures in her address, Rhode Islanders have quickly realized that she is all talk and no action when it comes to solving the state’s problems,” Burke added.

Eyewitness News will have in-depth coverage of the State of the State on Tuesday night, including a live broadcast of the speech at 7 p.m. on WPRI 12 and, followed by a recap and reaction on Eyewitness News at 10 and 11.

Ted Nesi ( covers politics and the economy for He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook