State House, Providence, Rhode Island - Leader Michael Chippendale presented the 2024 Republican State of the State Address.
The state of Rhode Island stands at a delicate juncture in our history, and we face many challenges as we move forward.
Last year's budget was $14 Billion dollars --and based on the annual budget growth prior to COVID -- we should be around $11.5 Billion dollars this year. We must hold the line and we must be looking for places to cut spending.
This evening, I'm going to talk about some of the challenges we face as Rhode Islanders --and It's NOT negative to talk about the struggles our state has, and ignoring them certainly won't make them go away. We have to accept that these challenges exist, and that we must work together to find solutions to reverse the course we're on.
RI'S ENERGY POLICY IS FLAWED
Let's be clear - RI cannot afford the "Act on Climate of 2021”. The Act is built on an IDEALISTIC, rather than a REALISTIC foundation.
The group EcoRI reports that we have “No clear plan to reach our 2030 climate mandates.” They state simply that "We are not on track."
Over the past 12 years electricity costs have risen 46% for residents and 24% for businesses.
Electric Vehicle sales have stalled, peaking nationally at 1%. Ford, GM, and even Tesla are scrubbing plans for new production facilities across North America.
Regional wind projects are also being cancelled due to the high cost of the energy they'll provide, along with the negative impact on the ocean's wildlife and its delicate ecology.
We need to REWRITE the Act on Climate! It MUST protect our commercial fishing industry, our forested lands, and prevent bankrupting Rhode Islanders by forcing them to electrify every aspect of their lives at the most expensive economic time to do so.
Republicans call for a more measured approach -- using a sound, proven implementation -- just as other U.S. states have done.
We want to reactivate the Rate Payer Advisory Board -- enabling more public input on proposed rate hikes.
We must also restore power to the Public Utilities Commission, to review our renewable energy supply and costs.
And, we are obligated to protect RI consumers entering the current solar market.
RHODE ISLAND'S HEALTHCARE SYSTEM IS SADLY COLLAPSING
And we are hemorrhaging practitioners of every discipline -- from specialists to support positions.
The Office of the Health Care Insurance Commissioner states that the "Primary Care crisis is going to get much worse without major changes to insurance guidelines, and regulatory reforms."
Further - providers are retiring at an ever-increasing rate - or fleeing our state altogether, while most graduates are not even looking for healthcare jobs here in Rhode Island.
The loss of these vital professionals has been widely attributed to burnout, student debt, low Medicaid reimbursement rates and outdated employee mandates.
Rhode Islanders see the effects of these things every day.
Wait times in our Emergency Rooms have grown by 600% over the past 7 years, ranking us at 49th in the US.
Nursing homes continue to close due to the massive staffing shortages and costly state mandates.
We have a mental health crisis across Rhode Island, at the same time we're losing providers and we're forced to send Rhode Island children as far away as Oklahoma and Arkansas for mental healthcare.
This is UNACCEPTABLE.
Everything I've just described is the very DEFINITION of a collapse.
Republicans call for a long overdue adjustment to our Medicaid reimbursement rate, to keep pace with our neighboring states.
Some of our other solutions include adopting the "Community Based Healthcare Act" to retain medical graduates in Rhode Island; and we also want to reinstate Access to Telemedicine across state lines.
Our residents are being poorly served in this critical area and it cannot continue!
RHODE ISLAND'S INFRASTRUCTURE, AS WE ALL KNOW, IS ALSO CRUMBLING
For decades, our roads and bridges have been rated among the worst in the country. And while Rhode Islanders pay among the highest fees for road maintenance through our gas tax -- we still don't see adequate maintenance of our infrastructure.
The near disaster of the I-195 bridge is a reminder of the negative impact these failures have had on commerce, education, healthcare delivery, and the lives of everyday commuters.
As Republicans warned, the truck tolls were stricken down by the courts last year, and $8.5 million dollars of taxpayer money has already been wasted appealing that decision.
Rhode Islanders are now left wondering - Are car tolls next?? THAT is something Republicans will NOT stand for!
Businesses also watch these dynamics - and they factor them in when considering if they'll move to, or expand in the State of Rhode Island.
Make no mistake, our infrastructure DIRECTLY impacts our economy, and it IS damaging us as a state.
You've heard Republicans speak of instituting an Office of Inspector General in Rhode Island --just like the majority of US states already have.
This alone is an initiative that can save Rhode Island taxpayers billions of dollars! The importance of this Office simply cannot be overstated.
WE ALL KNOW WE HAVE AN EDUCATION CRISIS TOO.
Our education system isn't working, but if we CAN fix it -- many other problems we face will be resolved as well.
We have High Schools in Rhode Island with less than 1% proficiency rates in math, and single digit proficiency in science and language.
Graduation rates continue to plummet, while absenteeism among students AND teachers skyrockets.
Public school enrollment is down, with parents choosing charter, private, and home schooling at a much greater rate than ever before.
Benjamin Franklin said, "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest."
Republicans realize this, and we support parents who are no longer accepting that their children's futures must be invested in the same broken systems. Parents and students alike want to receive a quality education, and we are obligated to respect and support the wishes of those parents by providing the options to best educate THEIR CHILDREN.
CLEARLY, RI ALSO HAS A HOUSING CRISIS
Our location between New York and Boston make our housing challenges even greater.
Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York all offer big money jobs, but the lower cost homes are here in Rhode Island. That workforce is now moving to our state and buying up our housing inventory --all while working elsewhere either remotely or in hybrid form.
Shockingly, 25% of home sales in Rhode Island are to non-residents and over 14% of all home sales in Rhode Island are to people from Massachusetts. All of this has led to a dramatic increase in demand and an increase in price.
But fundamentally on the supply side, when the Cost of Doing Business and the Cost of Living are so extremely high, housing costs will naturally also be extremely high.
One housing expert reviewing Rhode Island observed that a state like ours could achieve our goals with ONE Housing Authority. He was astounded to learn we had 26 in Rhode Island. This does not create efficiency or affordability.
So, how did RI respond?
The state created a cabinet-level Office of Housing with its own massive budget and staff -- which continues to grow. This isn't creating efficiencies that will lower costs, it's creating bureaucracies that increase costs. High interest, high costs and low inventory have resulted in the "death of the starter home" for Rhode Island residents.
Republicans believe that while we continue to invest in housing, we MUST invest wisely. It's imperative that we stop growing the size of government while at the same time hoping we'll be lowering prices --that is simply NOT how economics works.
And most importantly, the state either needs to respect our towns and let them govern themselves; or fully fund the overbearing mandates we continue to foist upon our municipalities. Otherwise, the local taxpayers will be stuck with that bill too -- and we simply cannot afford it.
RHODE ISLAND HAS HAD AN ONGOING STRUGGLE CREATING JOBS AND GROWING OUR ECONOMY
I've already spoken about the dynamic we face being located between Boston and New York, and that dynamic plays a major role in our poor economic performance as a state.
Rhode Island loses 63% of our college graduates to states with better economies and more housing opportunities.
Our own Department of Labor and Training cites that since 2010, our population has decreased in every age group under 45, while at the same time we've seen a 69% INCREASE in folks between the ages of 65 and 84. The US Bureau of Labor & Statistics also reports that Rhode Island is the ONLY state to have a net loss in salaries in 2023.
These demographic and salary trends do not bode well for a prosperous Rhode Island and we must turn that around!
Republicans will continue to advocate for policies that make doing business in Rhode Island less burdensome and less expensive.
The Tangible Property Tax was reformed last year, and that is just one of the areas where Republicans have been advocating to reduce the burdens on our businesses - and that type of advocacy will not stop.
In conclusion, Rhode Island truly is one of the most special places in the world, and as the smallest state, we possess the agility to excel beyond expectations.
It's time to dream bigger and execute smarter.
Rhode Island Republicans envision a future where we lead by reducing dependency on government, properly supporting education, and empowering our citizens to create prosperity.
These things are possible with earnest commitment.
We call upon our colleagues in government to join us in this vision for Rhode Island. Working together we can foster a prosperous and promising future for all.
In 1636, Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, established the first working model of Democracy after being banished from Massachusetts for his “extreme views” concerning freedom of speech and religion. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams publicly acknowledged Williams as the originator of these concepts, along with the freedom of public assembly, in the First Amendment in the United States Constitution. Today, Rhode Island House Republicans uphold the liberties designed by our Founders and preserved in our Constitution, and are the primary legislative body promoting lean government, fighting for lower taxes, and advocating for initiatives and policies that improve the economy and in turn, the lives of Rhode Islanders. As members of a part-time assembly, we are small business owners, retired educators, community activists, lawyers, farmers, military service veterans, volunteers, former local officials, retired social workers, coaches, musicians, churchgoers and board directors -- bringing these community engagement and professional experiences to our work, on your behalf, at the Rhode Island State House.