From the State House
One of the important accomplishments this legislative session was rejecting the governor’s budget proposal to increase taxes – something none of us could afford.
In my three years as state representative, this is the first budget that reduces the out-year deficits while closing this year’s $186-million gap. This year’s budget has a 5-to-1 ratio in spending cuts versus raising taxes.
The $150 million in state savings comes from requiring greater efficiencies in the delivery of human services, department cuts and consolidation of state agencies.
However, I do not believe in balancing a budget on the backs of the elderly and the developmentally disabled. For that reason, I voted against Article 16 in the budget.
Many of you spoke to me about the need for more jobs in this state. As chairwoman of the Small Business Renewable Energy Task Force, I had the honor of working with a diverse group of business and environmental professionals in framing renewable energy legislation that the governor signed into law.
Distributed generation will be a game changer for Rhode Island. There are few small, land-based wind, solar, hydro, and other renewable energy projects being developed in Rhode Island compared to our neighboring states. Under this law, long-term contracts for renewable energy credits would make projects viable for financing by guaranteeing steady income for the developer.
It’s a game changer in Rhode Island because it will create more jobs in our state as projects are built. It is good economic policy and good environment policy. This is exactly what I mean when I speak with you about ‘environmental economics’.
This is a session that will be remembered by what lawmakers did and did not do.
The governor’s $165 million in taxes didn’t happen, thankfully. Binding arbitration didn’t come to the House floor after passing the Senate 20-17. Binding arbitration may become a bargaining chip in the upcoming fall session when we return to tackle pension reform. Other highlights of this session include several election changes. Polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. across Rhode Island. You’ll now need an ID to vote.
Don’t forget to buckle up. Not wearing a seatbelt while driving in Rhode Island is now a reason for a police officer to stop you and write a $75 ticket. Everyone knows seatbelts save lives, but I voted against this. If you’re crazy enough not to wear a seat belt, that’s your prerogative. The government shouldn’t tell you what to do.
The bill I sponsored to raise the exemption on the estate tax in Rhode Island from $859,350 to $1.5 million did not pass, but I will introduce it again next year. This is a middle class and small business issue. It will also help the 1,200 farms in Rhode Island with a best value of $1 million.
Finally, I am very proud of the Safe Schools Act that I sponsored to establish a statewide policy on bullying and cyberbullying. Working with my colleagues in the Senate, this law establishes a clear policy for teachers, students, parents and administrators to report, investigate and respond to bullying. I’ve repeatedly said that no parent should bury a child, and certainly not because of “bullycide,” which is bullying that causes suicide.
It is truly an honor to serve. Thank you. Please feel free to call or e-mail me with any questions or suggestions: 423-0444 or repruggiero@ rilin.state.ri.us.
In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. The choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.”
Enjoy the summer and stay well.
Deb Ruggiero represents Jamestown and Middletown in the state House of Representatives.