Warwick Democrats were congratulated for holding the line on city tax increases and told they can’t wait until 2020 if they’re going to make changes in Washington by Governor Gina Raimondo Wednesday night.
Raimondo was the guest speaker at the Warwick City Democratic meeting at the Knights of Columbus Hall, attended by more than 60 people. Raimondo has worked closely with Mayor Scott Avedisian, a Republican, on a number of issues, regularly sharing the podium on announcements concerning the airport and efforts to combat the opioid crisis.
While she didn’t name him, she was clearly referencing Avedisian when she said the Democratic City Council – there is not a single Republican – was able to pass a zero tax increase budget for the first time in 18 years.
Raimondo spoke about Rhode Island’s economy and how, during her tenure of governor, unemployment has dropped and that more Rhode Islanders are employed now than have been since 2008.
“Rhode Island’s on a roll,” she said. “We’ve cut deficits, cut taxes, and invested in our future.”
“I want to congratulate the Democratic council here in Warwick. People say Republicans are about fiscal austerity,” she said.
Raimondo said Republicans “blew a hole through the federal deficit,” adding, “but by my count this is the first count in 18 years you haven’t raised taxes, thanks to the Democratic council here in Warwick.”
On the topic of Washington, after answering questions that centered on efforts to address the state’s deteriorating school buildings and the botched streamlining of general assistance that has become known as the United Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) debacle, Raimondo asked the committee’s indulgence for a minute of their time. Her pitch had the ring of a campaign call to action, leaving little doubt she is looking to lead the party and her focus reaches beyond the Ocean State.
“It’s fantastic that you’re here and there’s such a big turnout. That gives me hope for our future,” she started.
“We need more Dems in office, starting with the White House all the way down,” she said to applause.
“What we’re living through now is a nightmare, and the only way to end it isn’t by hoping that one day they wake up in Washington and fix things. It’s going to happen right here in the Warwick City Committee, dozens of people showing up on a Wednesday. We’re going to take back this office and put Democrats in office and restore Democratic values, rebuild the middle class from the ground up,” she said.
The governor called state efforts to rebuild schools her “top priority.” She pointed out that Massachusetts has conducted seven statewide bond issues to rebuild schools in the past 10 years, whereas Rhode Island hasn’t had a single bond issue in 20 years.
The governor endorses a $250 million school building referendum on the November ballot that she calculates will amount to $1 billion with regular state spending and municipal capital spending over the next five years.
Why not make more of an investment if schools are in such deplorable shape and state debt expenses are declining, she was asked.
“We picked that number because that’s the number that will get every school to a status of warm, safe and dry. We can do better, but you’ve got to start somewhere. We thought let’s get every district to a place of warm, safe and dry,” she said.
“That is the number that I felt was fiscally responsible in the context of all of our other needs. We can do more in the future. This is what I felt comfortable with in regards to the taxpayer and getting our schools to where we want,” she said.
Raimondo also added a touch of hometown inside politics to her talk. She said her campaign for general treasurer was launched across the street at Picasso’s Pizza on Warwick when she met with K. Joseph Shekarchi, who is now House Majority Leader. Shekarcki became her campaign manager.
In the audience, Shekarchi was still playing the role. He was among the first to signal she had other commitments on her schedule and it was time for her to leave.