Gov. Raimondo’s Budget Tool Ignores Climate Change
March 13, 2015
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has unveiled a new online tool for parsing her $8.6 billion budget. It prominently features a clunky search tool that allows you to “search for a specific thing.” But don’t expect to find anything about climate change, agriculture, or any other word relating to the environment.
To be fair, the search tool doesn’t get specific on much, but there are a few items in the actual budget worth noting.
Green bank. The idea Raimondo touted during her campaign has been replaced with a conservative-friendly moniker: the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank. Raimondo allocates $7 million dollars to the fund for renewable-energy and energy-efficiency projects. The infrastructure bank also will support financing for municipal transportation and water-works projects. About $5 million of the fund will come from federal economic stimulus money and the state’s participation in the regional cap-and-trade program, known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
Tipping fees. The governor supports an increase in the cost of delivering a ton of trash to the Central Landfill in Johnston. The rate hasn’t been increased since 1990, and the artificially low fee is considered an impediment to new waste-reduction initiatives.
Streetscape fund. The new Main Street RI Fund will get $2 million for municipal village-type sidewalk and street improvement projects.
Tax breaks. A “package” of real-estate tax incentives include incentives for construction near transit hubs. A new tax cut would eliminate the sales tax businesses pay on their energy bills.
Taxes. The governor proposes a 25-cent increase on the cigarette tax. Raimondo also wants to close the loophole that allows real-estate holding companies to avoid estate transfer fees.
Also, $99 million, or 1.1 percent of the $8.6 billion budget, goes to fund the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC). By comparison, the state spends $202 million to fund its annual debt.
The Bays, Rivers and Watersheds Coordination Team will transfer to the DEM in order to address water quality, water pollution and climate change.
Controversial items include $25 million for infrastructure improvements within the I-195 development district. It specifically excludes support for a baseball stadium.
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In fairness to the budget tool, it seems like it’s not meant to be very specific, but I tried searching a bunch of specifics that didn’t come up for me, that matter a lot to me as a voter:
Transportation has an entry–worth almost $460 million–but the entry doesn’t explain what that goes to or how it is paid for. There are definitely worthy investments to make in the state that the governor should be putting money to, but the devil’s in the details.
The governor brought up tolls, which I think are a good idea. Not clear if that’s still on the table:
To put $460 million in context:
At the city level, Providence paid $40 million to repave its streets throughout the city.
The Garrahy Garage will cost $43 million (budgeted under Gov. Chafee)
The un-tolled Sakonnet Bridge cost around $200 million.
The 6/10 Connector will cost in excess of $500 million if replaced. (I have suggested tearing it out and replacing it with something less expensive here: http://www.ecori.org/transportation/2014/4/11/routes-6-and-10-put-providence-in-chokehold.html)
So $460 million doesn’t go as far as it might seem. We have to think about changing how we finance roads, how many roads we have, what types, and where.
In Pennsylvania, the new governor is talking aggressively about transit, and his leadership is being mirrored by the mayors of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
The governor talks about promoting the state. But she doesn’t seem to make any room in her budget to maintain and up-grade our state parks, open space and beaches.
People come to Rhode Island to enjoy the outdoors – beaches, scenic back roads, hiking/biking trails and state parks (try getting a reservation @ Burlingame in the middle of the summer). And what about protecting our farms and other open space? Tourists don’t come to Rhode Island to visit half vacant strip malls.
I hope the governor starts to pay attention to what’s already here and creating tons of summer jobs.