Chafee to emphasize competitiveness, education, infrastructure

Governor Chafee, set to deliver his "State of the State" address at 7 pm tonight, will unveil a budget proposal designed to "make Rhode Island more competitive," invest in public education, assist struggling municipalities, and maintain and improve infrastructure.

Staff gave reporters a glimpse at the specifics in a briefing this afternoon, on condition that they not reveal the details until the speech begins.

The top-line priorities, which media are allowed to discuss now, are no great surprise. Chafee has made a slow-and-steady focus on the fundamentals - education, infrastructure, and workforce development - the cornerstone of his strategy for economic rebirth.

Legislative leaders are more interested than the governor in dramatic, headline-grabbing change - say, blowing up the state's Economic Development Corporation. And that could be a source of tension in the coming legislative session.

But more striking, at the moment, are the points of agreement. Speaker of the House Gordon Fox has made it clear, in recent years, that he wants to support a higher education system that got short shrift for too long. An economic development report recently unveiled by Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed suggested more money to fix roads.

And there seems to be a broad consensus, on Smith Hill, about cutting taxes to stimulate economic growth and improve the state's dismal reputation for business friendliness. The Providence Journal, this week, reported on legislative leaders working on a proposal to cut the corporate tax rate, which currently stands at 9 percent.

Governor Chafee, who prefers broadly applicable tax cuts to more targeted measures, has proposed a similar move in the past. 



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