PROVIDENCE, RI- Today the Governor signed and transmitted to the Secretary of State H. 5151 SUB A -- AN ACT RELATING TO MAKING APPROPRIATIONS IN SUPPORT OF FY 2020.
Full text of the Governor's transmission letter is below:
"TO THE HONORABLE, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
I hereby transmit to the Secretary of State, with my signature, 2019-H 5151 Substitute A as Amended, "An Act Relating to Making Appropriations in Support of FY 2020."
Five years ago, we began a new way of doing business in Rhode Island, and that plan is beginning to show great results for the people of Rhode Island. Our economy is stronger than it has been in decades. Last year, we marked several undeniable signs of progress: our labor force grew for the first time in 13 years; between 2014 and 2018, we experienced the largest drop in unemployment in the country; and our state recorded its highest job counts in history. Just a few years ago, the unemployment rate in the construction trades was over 20 percent, today it is under 3 percent – that means thousands of Rhode Island families have the security of well-paying jobs.
But we have much more work to do to make sure that our progress is resilient. As recently as 2014, we had the highest unemployment in America. Our economic recovery is still in its early innings and we can't make choices that risk us going backwards.
There are important steps forward for Rhode Island included in this budget, and I thank the legislature for its hard work. Several of my top priorities that will significantly improve the lives of all Rhode Islanders are contained in this budget, and I appreciate the legislature working with me to enact them. This budget makes significant strides toward my goal of universal public Pre-K by giving 300 more Rhode Island children the opportunity for a strong start in our program that is consistently ranked among the best in the nation. The budget continues to make record investments in K-12 education with the single largest funding increase of any part of the budget, and it fully funds my proposal for increased funding to English Language Learners. It also enshrines the protections of the Affordable Care Act in Rhode Island ensuring that regardless of what happens at the federal level affordable and high-quality health care will remain in reach for working families. Importantly, the budget also invests $4.5 million in higher wages for direct support professionals working with Rhode Island's developmentally disabled community.
However, in other important ways, the General Assembly's budget restricts our ability to grow the economy and unwisely takes our foot off the gas at a critical point in our comeback. By cutting our innovative and effective new economic development tools, our progress is put at risk.
Too many Rhode Islanders will be denied their opportunity at a better job because of the cuts to the Real Jobs Rhode Island job training program. This program has trained more than 6,000 Rhode Islanders for good paying jobs and is now experiencing increased demand because of its success. We have seen particular success in putting people to work in higher-paying manufacturing jobs, and hundreds of Rhode Island businesses have benefitted from it. Shortsighted changes will also threaten the Qualified Jobs program, which has generated more than 3,000 jobs at an average salary of $65,000. Unlike some of the failed economic programs of the past, the Qualified Jobs initiative has demonstrable success, allows Rhode Island to compete with other states, and has excellent taxpayer protections. Weakening these two initiatives runs the risk of putting the brakes on our economic momentum.
Instead of bolstering these proven initiatives, the General Assembly's budget creates a new controversial tax incentive program benefiting wealthy out-of-state investors that could put $42 million of taxpayer money at risk and increase our structural deficit. Four years ago, we created a new way of investing in economic development – with taxpayer protections, transparent processes, and professional evaluation. This new program does not do this and I am concerned it returns us to the old way of doing things.
This budget also creates a costly and unnecessary tax that will force every driver in Rhode Island to pay for new license plates. And it fails to address the root causes of marijuana entering the black market while also taking the responsibility of writing regulations away from professionals and putting it into the hands of legislators.
This budget places unprecedented restrictions on the ability of the executive branch to account for unforeseen increases in the number of children and families we serve as part of our legal and moral obligation to care for vulnerable Rhode Islanders. In the past five years we have had notable successes on this front: Rhode Island is one of a few states to actually see a decrease in the number of opioid-related overdose deaths two years in a row. We also have seen record increases in the number of kids placed into loving foster homes as opposed to institutional settings. The General Assembly's budget puts all of that progress, and more, at risk.
This budget also does nothing to reduce spending—in fact, the legislative budget appropriates more spending than the budget that I submitted in January. It also doubles our out-year deficits while ignoring proposals to address increasing costs in our prison system.
Rhode Island has an unfortunate distinction in our budgeting process. We are one of only six states that lack a line-item veto – a critical tool for ensuring transparency and accountability. The line-item veto is the single best tool to increase transparency and protect taxpayers from unnecessary or unwise spending. It has the support of a solid majority of Rhode Islanders and I look forward to working with the General Assembly to put it on next year's ballot.
Over the past four years, my administration has worked collaboratively with the General Assembly to produce budgets that reflect our shared priorities and put Rhode Islanders first. Those budgets have yielded great results – an economic turnaround, broad-based tax cuts and new investments that are rebuilding Rhode Island. This is what Rhode Islanders expect and deserve. I look forward to working hard in partnership with the legislature in the years to come.
Given the urgency of our shared mission to improve education and move Rhode Island forward, I cannot in good faith take action that would delay our progress. Therefore, I transmit, with my signature, 2019-H 5151 SUB A as Amended."