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6/13/2017 House Republican Caucus to Hold Press Conference to Announce Its Position on the FY 2018 Budget
STATE HOUSE  --  House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan (R-District 26 Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick) and members of the House Republican caucus will hold a press conference on Tuesday, June 13, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. in the House Minority Office (Room 106) at the Rhode Island State House to announce its position on the FY 2018 state budget. 
“The General Assembly has worked during this legislative session to draft a budget for the coming year. We have spent countless hours hearing proposals and testimony, as we sift through competing priorities. Our work is made even more difficult this year due to a large $134 million deficit.” said Representative Morgan.  “The revenue shortfall for our state, is a warning sign that our economy is still struggling although it's been 8 years since the recession.  This hard fact is forcing difficult choices.”
“The state budget is a plan to pay the bills of state government. But it should not be used simply as a tool to get us from one year to the next. The budget and the actions we take in the General Assembly can also serve as a guide and strategy for the future.”
“For eight long and problematic years, Rhode Island's economic climate has bumped along the bottom of most rankings. Time and again, our state leaders have promised vigorous efforts to turn our state around and make the course corrections necessary for prosperity and financial security to return to our residents.”
“To be fair, they have funded the Commerce RI's initiatives and made small steps in cutting regulations and costs for our business community.  Unfortunately, changes to the chronic issues that plague our state have been ignored.”
“The foundational pieces of our economic climate are weak and damaged. If we really want to develop a business climate that not only attracts new companies, but also strengthens  and grows existing RI businesses we must begin eliminating and reforming the bad policies that act as a weight and an impediment to growth.”
“We are disheartened by the number of people who tell us they will leave Rhode Island, as soon as they retire.  We are alarmed by statistics that show that the largest demographic leaving our state is working age 35-55 year old residents.  It is distressing that one third of our people are on Medicaid and worrisome that the already high cost-of-living keeps getting tougher for average folks to manage.  Rhode Island is not going in the right direction and much of that distress is caused by bad policies that have been pursue at the state level.”
“This budget must not just pay the bills and get us through the coming year.  It must also set our state on a path to reform, on a path that will fix the problems that hurt our ability to grow a prosperous future for everyone.”
“The House Republican caucus has done its homework and understands the blueprint required to build a solid foundation for Rhode Island’s future,” Rep. Morgan added. “We are proposing four priorities that we feel should be included in the budget. If passed these initiatives and reforms, they will lighten the load on hardworking Rhode Islanders. They will begin rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in government programs. They will reduce the cost of repairing our schools, so every children has a safe, healthy and supportive environment in which to learn. They will help to stop the annual increases in property taxes that make it hard for average families to pay their bills and it will remove an impediment to business investment and expansion and the job growth that would accompany it.”
“These four ideas are but a small down payment on the reforms that need to take place, but they are strong and critical components of any responsible plan for the future prosperity of Rhode Island.”
The four policy proposals include:
Provide an Exemption to the Prevailing Wage for School Repair: There is no component more important to a healthy economy than a well-educated workforce. Good schools lead to brighter futures. Our children and grandchildren deserve to have a safe, healthy and supportive environment in which to learn.  Recent reports place the cost of school repairs across the state at $2 billion; far too much for our struggling taxpayers to reasonably provide in a practical timeframe.  If implemented, an exemption to the prevailing wage would allow more repairs to be accomplished with the same expenditure.  The state of Ohio used this policy and saved approximately 11% on the cost of repairs for equal quality.  The increased competition encourages more cost efficient bids.  Contractors, both union and open shop, can do the work. There will be work for all.  Taxpayers reap the benefit of more work for the same cost and most importantly, our children can attend schools that are in good repair and conducive to dynamic learning.
Create the Office of an Independent Inspector General:  Our state is in desperate need for an Independent Inspector General. This officer would be charged  the responsibility of preventing and detecting fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in the expenditure of public funds. Many other states and the federal government already have this capacity. It has saved them countless millions in bad spending. It could, likewise,  save our state millions. 
While Rhode Island currently has an Auditor General who performs audits and produces reports that contain findings of possible problems, he is an employee of the General Assembly and, as such, simply does not have the authority or independence to pursue possible conflicts or abusive spending.
However, an Inspector General, is an independent investigative officer with the legal authority to investigate, prosecute, and impose penalties for fraud, waste and abuse. This officer, able to 
work independent of political considerations, could and would recommend actions to tighten up our fiscal house. It has worked in other states and it’s time for Rhode Island to join them. For example, last year alone, the Massachusetts IG recovered $6.5 million, and in 2012, he identified $233.5 million in potential cost savings.
Freeze and Eliminate the Tangible Personal Property Tax:  Rhode Island's largest employer is our small business community. They depend on government policies that allow them to prosper and grow. When they are strong and expanding, we all benefit.  One of the most burdensome taxes on these small employers is the TPP.  This tax is collected on the equipment they use for commerce.  Their machinery, desks, telephones and computers.  Tools and shop equipment, fax machines and printers.  This tax prevents them from buying more, from expanding a production line or developing a new product and new customers. 
Instead of giving millions in Commerce Corp subsidies and incentives to out-of-state companies with little to tie them to Rhode Island, we suggest that we use that money to freeze and eliminate the Tangible Personal Property tax. Let's help our home-grown small companies grow.
Disability Pension Reform:  We all want those who are truly hurt and unable to work to be protected, but we don't want to reward workers who abuse our generosity.  Disability pension fraud is one component of skyrocketing property taxes. When someone unjustly takes a disability pension, they take more money, earlier, from already underfunded plans. They also receive other costly benefits, like college tuition and medical insurance. Today, nineteen municipal pension plans are in critical status. The annual funding of pension plans is causing tax increases every year and placing a hard burden on homeowners and businesses, alike.  Union leaders vigorously oppose any reforms, but active employees and retirees also depend on a healthy system, as much as tax payers do. For the public good, this issue must be tackled. It weighs down our economic vitality and financial security.
If these four policies are included as part of the budget process, we could support a budget, even if it's imperfect, because it takes us away from lurching from one year to the next and sets us on a course for reform that will bring better days and financial security for all Rhode Islanders. 

For more information, contact:
Raina C. Smith, House Minority Office
State House Room 106
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-2259