Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce Questions

QUESTIONS POSED BY THE GREATER PROVIDENCE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

The questions had background statements which were not included. For the complete questionnaire, contact the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce.

All questions asked for a YES or NO answer with Comments. No yes or no answers were provided except as seen within the context of these answers.

  1. Question: As an elected official, will you oppose any effort to undo the state’s 2010 personal income tax reform effort which eliminated credits and deductions in exchange for lowering the marginal rate from 9.9 percent to 5.99 percent?

I am generally opposed to using credits to mask the real tax rate. This is not an absolute, however, I do not generally endorse such methods of hiding the real tax rate from all. I believe we must all share in the benefits of law and share equally in the burdens. That said, there are reasons for some credits and deductions, but they should be given strict scrutiny. In short, I am more likely than not to oppose undoing the reforms, but this is not firm.

  1. Question: As an elected official, will you support efforts to bring the state’s unemployment benefit structure in line with the other New England states’ which would specifically entail narrowing benefits and eligibility?

I will listen to all the arguments as to the unemployment benefit structure and see a need for reform. I do believe in the need to reform it, but I am not overly moved until I see more specific plans than have been set forth in this questionnaire.

  1. Question: As an elected official, will you support efforts to narrow eligibility and exempt employers who offer their own temporary disability insurance programs?

If someone other than the state wishes to offer their own programs, I would welcome that discussion. I am not opposed to the narrowing and exempting possibilities.

  1. Question: As an elected official, will you support ongoing efforts by the State to honor its obligation on the moral obligation bond?

No. Until the public has complete access to all the documents in this matter, I am reluctant to authorize such payment. I understand that it will possibly impact the obligations of the State, along with a probable increase in the cost of borrowing. I do not see this as a negative in that the State should limit its appetite for living on credit.

As to the moral obligation, I find it hypocritical to say that there is a ‘moral obligation’ to Wall Street players while finding no such moral obligation to honor the State’s commitment to Rhode Island pensioners who have worked for the state in reliance of promises by the Legislature and have dedicated themselves to Rhode Island in terms of their labor. If we want to talk about morality, let’s focus our attention to our own people instead of our friends on Wall Street.

I am more inclined to be against the Chamber’s position on this issue.

  1. Question: As an elected official, will you support the planned implementation of the Common Core State Standards in Rhode Island?

Until there is a clearer education plan for Rhode Island, I am reserving my support for such an idea. Rhode Island is at a cross-road. Should education policy be for socialization or for academic achievement? It cannot do both with any modicum of success.

The common core principles make sense in a system where the focus is strictly on academic achievement. To implement this into a system that is used for socialization is almost as ridiculous as giving a fish a bicycle.

Although the thought is a good one, the system in place limits the success that such a program can achieve.

The state wishes to use pedagogy to advance social issues and at the same time test for intellectual advancement. The two are distinct functions. Using the classroom for socialization runs counter-intuitive to the idea that there is a need for academic achievement. Confusing the two is the basis for an unobtainable objective.

Until the state makes a clear choice of its education objectives, I cannot have a reasonable position on this issue.

  1. Question: As an elected official, will you make it a budget priority to increase funding for URI, CCRI, and RIC specifically for base operations (that is, not counting debt service or lease payments) to move Rhode Island’s national ranking to at least the level of Massachusetts (42)?

Higher education is a budgetary priority to be certain, however, unless this is coupled with economic development policy, the idea of spending more on higher education to provide competing states with easily accessible talent is short sighted.

Unless there is a coordinated effort to link our economic development with our higher education system, we are just preparing people to relocate and compete against us. To pay for this competition is absurd.

The needs of higher education must be met and or expanded, however, to do so without a reasonable expectation of a return on the investment is just plain bad policy. To throw money at programs with no clear objective for what the program is intended to produce, is just more of a waste of tax dollars.

  1. Question: As an elected official, will you support the argument that HealthSourceRI should be strictly limited in scope and financially self-supporting?

I do not find a Constitutional mandate for health care insurance coverage. As such, I am more than likely in agreement that HealthSourceRI should be as limited in application as possible. I am more in alignment with the Chamber’s position in this matter.

  1. Question: As an elected official, will you support increased funding for Commerce RI to market Rhode Island at a level commensurate with other New England states’ marketing programs?

Until we have some real success, to advertise mediocrity is not in the State’s interest. I do not feel that the results to date merit national acclaim. To spend money to advertise minimal economic development is not a wise move. In the real world, if you have a success story, you market it, or, in the alternative, if it is as great as the creators proclaim, you will have little trouble in getting people to come to you.

As such, I am not in favor of the Chamber’s plan to trumpet mediocre achievement.

  1. Question: As an elected official, will you favor restoring state support to previous spending levels for each of these knowledge advancement initiatives?

I would be open to it, but it would have to have a demonstrable level of success, objectives and measurements.

I am open to discussion on this matter based on the criteria set forth in this answer.

  1. Question: Do you agree with the Chamber’s position that minimum wage legislation should be subject to a General Assembly vote and that there should be only one minimum wages for the entire state?

There seems to be a strong argument in favor of state preemption in this area. Since most labor policy is set at the state level, it would take a much stronger argument to convince me that this is a local policy matter. I agree with the Chamber’s position on this issue.

October 4, 2014 Robert J. Healey, Jr.

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