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Carcieri on Newsmakers

 

UPDATE: The video is up here.

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Governor Carcieri visited with Tim White, Arlene Violet, and myself this afternoon to discuss his supplemental budget address and a few other odds and ends.

Some brief highlights from Newsmakers, which should hit the Web later today, and which will be broadcast Sunday, at 5:30 am on Channel 12, and at 10 on Fox Providence:

-- Carcieri denied that cuts in school funding and local aid amount to putting off a property tax increase on the state's cities and towns. He said a variety of savings are included in his proposal, that some towns can tap surpluses in the short-term, and that municipalities -- such as East Providence -- need to do a better job in looking out for taxpayers.

-- Asked why RI is duking it out with Michigan as the nation's unemployment leader, the gov basically put it on the fiscal crisis and on the state's tax structure, even though RI has made progress in recent years in diminishing, relatively speaking, its tax burden.

-- Carcieri denied that middle-class Rhode Islanders, due to tax cuts for the well-to-do, are paying a bigger share of the tax burden. Ocean State Action sees it differently:

Over the past ten years, the wealthiest taxpayers - many of whom live in Massachusetts and Connecticut but work in Rhode Island -- and large corporations have seen their taxes cut. To pay for these breaks, while middle-class and working families in Rhode Island have had to pay an ever larger share of the taxes, and have faced increasing fees and cuts to education and health care programs. State workers have also made numerous sacrifices.

By focusing on cuts to health care, education, and state workers, and by shifting even more onto property taxes to fund cities and towns, the governor is asking those who have sacrificed so much in recent years to sacrifice again, and asking little of those who have benefitted from the tax cuts of recent years. We need to ask large corporations and those earning over $250,000 to pay their fair share by rolling back the unaffordable tax breaks they've been given.

-- Off-camera, the gov said the General Assembly, with less than two weeks to make a decision, has had more than adequate time to vet the global Medicaid waiver.

-- Asked why he's suggesting some changes, like a higher minimum retirement age for state pensions and taking a hard look at consolidating municipal services and school districts, six years into his tenure, Carcieri said he's been making changes and that the time is right now for consolidation.

-- The gov, who gets a very generous pension from Cookson America, denied that it's a double-standard for him to be seeking changes, to a defined-contribution plan, in the pensions of state workers. The workers will still have competitive benefits, he says.

-- Carcieri got most animated when I asked whether he was mistake to oppose a container port at Quonset Point, and whether NIMBYism impedes economic development in RI. The container port doesn't work as a job-generator, he said, due to the lack of nearby distribution facilities. The gov said he is ready to debate anyone on this topic.

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