Paiva Weed discusses her position on state issues
“As you can imagine, the budget and economy have been the major issues as of late,” said Paiva Weed. “I have been working hard with the business community to address their concerns about the proposed budget.”
The General Assembly received Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s budget recommendation on March 8. His $7.66 billion proposed budget included plans to lower the general sales tax to 6 percent from 7 percent, but expanded it to more products and services, such as landscapers and hair salons.
“This is the worst budget climate since 1933,” Chafee said during his press conference where he outlined his budget plans. “Any time tax increases or spending cuts are proposed there will be critics. However, I am interested in constructive and credible criticism.”
There would also be a new 1 percent sales tax on items and services that were not currently taxed. The budget would also include $682 million in funding for schools under the new education formula.
Paiva Weed, who was reelected as president of the Senate on Jan. 4 after soundly defeating Republican Geoffrey Cook in November’s General Election with two-thirds of the vote, said there are some aspects of the governor’s proposal that bothers her.
“I have a number of concerns with the proposal,” Paiva Weed said. “I could not support the taxing of home heating oil.”
It was the first criticism that the senator brought up when discussing the budget plan, a concern that was echoed by Rep. Deb Ruggiero, who represents Jamestown in the state House of Representatives. Ruggiero said thata1percentsaletaxonhome heating oil would be a “death of a 1,000 paper cuts” for homeowners and middle-class families.
“We are looking at a variety of alternatives,” Paiva Weed said. “That’s the first thing we need to do before we address the revenue.”
Although Paiva Weed has no problem openly criticizing some of Chafee’s budget ideas, she says that the governor is more than willing to work with senators and house representatives on both sides of the aisle to help try to solve the economic crisis facing the state.
“The new governor and his administration have been very open and have certainly expressed a willingness to cooperate with us as we move forward in this diffi cult time,” Paiva Weed said. “It would be very easy to point fingers, but he hasn’t. He has expressed a desire to work with us.”
Aside from the budget proposal, Paiva Weed has also been adamant about keeping a Division of Motor Vehicles branch open on Aquidneck Island. The Middletown registry closed on Feb. 11. A Feb. 18 deadline for a new lease for the registry passed without drawing any request for proposals. Paiva Weed, along with senators Louis DiPalma, Walter S. Felag Jr. and Christopher Scott Ottianoc, who are all part of the Aquidneck Island delegation to the Senate, wrote to Chafee and asked his administration to act immediately to restore the the branch on the island.
“I am concerned and dismayed to learn that there were no proposals submitted for a new Registry location on Aquidneck Island,” said Paiva Weed, a resident of Newport. “This is a critical service for the residents, and a new location must be identifi ed as swiftly as possible. I have expressed in the past the Senate delegation’s concern that the requirements identified in the request for proposals were too restrictive, a factor which we believe played a role in there being no proposals submitted. I will do everything in my power to ensure that a Registry branch is re-opened as soon as possible on Aquidneck Island.”
Aquidneck Island is still without a Registry, but the state has re-opened accepting proposals from property owners for potential sites to a DMV on the island.
More recently, Paiva Weed, along with Ruggiero, introduced legislation on March 15 to “create a panel to unify the state’s efforts to strategize its development of renewable energy.”
According to the press release, “The bill creates the Rhode Island Renewable Energy Coordinating Board, which would evaluate the various shortand long-term renewable energy policies that already exist across state government, develop a strategic plan to coordinate them and make recommendations aimed at developing renewable energy resources as a means of creating jobs and business opportunities in Rhode Island.”
The five-member board would include a representative from the Department of Administration, the Office of Energy Resources, the Economic Development Corporation, the Department of Environmental Management and the Coastal Resources Management Council, with a 15-member advisory council.
“Renewable energy development benefits the environment, increasing energy independence while reducing reliance on fossil fuels,” Paiva Weed said. “It also has the potential to be a major sector for economic growth and job creation, while stabilizing energy prices for consumers and businesses.”