Long, Paiva-Weed talk about state budget issues
Facing a projected $450 million deficit and possible recession, Jamestown's representatives in the General Assembly have their work cut out for them as 2008 marks the beginning of a new legislative session.
Not surprisingly, according to both State Representative Bruce Long (R - Jamestown, Middletown) and State Senator M. Teresa Paiva- Weed (D - Jamestown, Newport), the number one issue facing both Rhode Island and Jamestown is the state's projected budget deficit.
The budget, according to Long, "has an effect on all of us. It's really the reason we elect our state senators and state representatives," he said.
For Long, education reform begins with reducing the number and cost of state mandates placed on local communities. Pointing to the mandatory bussing of students not educated on the island and mandatory special education class sizes, Long said that state mandates beyond what is required at the federal level need to be examined closely.
"In regard to the budget. There are some people out there that are supporting an increase in taxes. Where I'm coming from...the biggest problem is spending."
"The state needs to live within its means," Long said.
Long said that he was preparing to introduce legislation that would prohibit the use of revenue generated from the Newport bridge to be used on any other road or bridge. "It's absolutely unacceptable to come to Newport Bridge users to pay for anything other than the Newport Bridge," he said.
On this issue of selling the naming rights to either the Newport or Mt. Hope bridges, Long was definitive. "By statute, it's the Claiborne Pell Bridge. If the people over in Bristol think it's a good idea, then so be it...The amount of money it will bring in will be a drop in the bucket."
Paiva-Weed struck a similar chord. "I have very strong concerns regarding privatizing the bridge," she said. Citing the need to ensure the reasonableness of the toll fees and the safety of the structure, Paiva Weed said that the East Bay delegation will be meeting with Rep. Kennedy and Sen. Reed to explore possible alternative funding sources for the bridge.
In addition to their mutual concern over the potential privatization of the Newport Bridge, both officials expressed support for the island's wind energy program.
Paiva-Weed also pledged to work in the best interest of the community saying that those grants that she sponsored in the past including funding for the Jamestown Emergency Management Service, Fire Department, and Senior Center will likely continue to receive funding. "Ultimately, they save the town," she noted.
Other issues that continue to be of interest to Jamestown's assembly delegation include meeting the island's affordable housing goals, addressing predatory lending, and improving education.
Predatory lending market
For Paiva-Weed, improving Rhode Island's performance when it comes to recycling is also an issue that she'll be pushing in 2008. "That includes the town of Jamestown," she said. According to the Senate Majority Leader, the General Assembly will be holding a recycling summit to examine different communities' recycling programs in an effort to improve the state's recycling rates.
Continuing to work in support of the state's RIte Care program is also at the top of her agenda. "Facilitating affordable healthcare is a very important goal for me," she said.
Long, who is a regular guest at Jamestown Town Council meetings, also said he would continue to work to make Jamestown's volunteer fire department more attractive to potential recruits, and much more which he will update councilors on regularly.