I will focuses on The Four Es: Economy, Education, Ethics and Environment. These interconnected topics are pivotal to restoring the quality of life that Rhode Island deserves.
While a well-run state with a solid infrastructure and a predictable budget encourages the retention of businesses and residents, it takes a competitive state to attract new enterprises, talent and tourists. We need to bring Rhode Island's business and income taxes in line other New England states that are within a two-state hop. Rhode Island should strive to have the most competitive tax structure. We can capitalize on our state’s size to drive economies of scale and operational efficiencies that other states cannot muster. At the end of the day, Rhode Island is in economic competition with every state in this country and with every other country in the world, and we are losing the competition. To get back on track, every decision made at the State House must be made with attention paid to what the consequences of that decision will be on our economic competitive posture.
This is an ideal time for Rhode Island to showcase its high-quality land and buildings which are priced at significantly lower costs to businesses than nearby markets. If we wish to attract businesses to our state we must create a fertile field in which a business can grow. We must;
· Eliminate the minimum corporate tax completely.
· Centralize all business inspections under one entity, thus ridding ourselves of duplicative inspections.
· Work with cities and towns to create ‘enterprise zones’ to encourage business relocations to Rhode Island.
· Create a state office or program to encourage and coordinate regionalization of cities and towns, to offset the effect of declining state aid. Should schools be regionalized to a county level? This office should be charged with presenting a plan that proposes multiple Future State schemes to start driving the hard discussions.
· Bridge education and economic stability by the creation of a state-wide coop or internship program to match up RI businesses with college, career school, and high school students.
· Provide Rhode Island businesses with a skilled labor force by tripling the availability of vocational education for high school students. We should be providing full programs that produce journeymen and apprentice electricians, plumbers and pipe fitters. These will be the trades people that will be maintaining and repairing our crumbling infrastructure.
· Repeal state and local business regulations that add no real value or that don’t create real consumer and environmental protections. Why should it take sometimes years and multiple government departments to obtain a new business permit?
· Decriminalizes but regulate the recreational and non-public use and commerce of marijuana. This is an untapped revenue source. Also, the cost of criminalization is prohibitive.
· Reduce State payroll by 15% over four years. 10% through attrition and 5% through restructuring. The government is too big and too inefficient.
· Propose legislation that reduces the Lt. Governor’s budget to zero and remove all duties except those duties required to step in during absences of the Governor. Consider a constitutional convention to eliminate the position and have the Speaker of the House assume the responsibility during absences of the governor.
· Tort reform which will significantly reduce the insurance and health care costs of Rhode Island citizens.
· Many individuals are unable to resolve conflicts timely or at all given the costs and backed-up state of the courts. Justice and resolutions of conflicts needs to be swift and affordable. Access to justice should not be only for the well-to-do. We need to double the size of the Courts and change current court rules to allow for cases of equity to be heard in district court. The current cost of justice is too high.
· Eliminate the corporate filing tax for all corporations whose Chief Officers are all state residents.
· We must immediately craft a solution to the spiraling housing costs in the state. Affordable housing is a large cause of people leaving the state. Smaller dwelling sizes, smaller lot sizes and reduced frontage requirements are needed. Exclusionary zoning must be halted. The current 10% affordable housing requirement locally should be properly enforced.
· Truck Tolls are most likely a prelude to auto tolls to come. The bifurcated truck vs car scheme is convoluted and bad for business as it is now being implemented. Reasonable tolls at the state borders maybe a viable revenue stream to maintain highways and roads. Rhode Island residents should be protected from undue burden from tolls. Revenue generated from tolls should offset automobile taxes on Rhode Island citizens.
· Public Funds should not be used to fund Private enterprises unless voted on by referendum.
Rhode Island must be innovative, creative and investigate these and other solutions to our economic crisis as well as plan for long-term job growth mindset.
A skilled, educated workforce is essential to economic growth in our state. By providing our children with the skills and knowledge they need, we have an opportunity to attract and create new businesses and help existing ones. Highly educated students tend to earn more income, are less likely to draw on social support programs, and are less likely to commit crimes. Start early: Effective education is a lifelong process.
Failing schools are not acceptable. Children in Rhode Island have a right to a high-quality education that prepares them to succeed to their highest potential. Taxpayers have a right to a higher return on their investment. Schools must be “capable stewards of the taxpayers’ investment.”
· Recruit, support, reward and retain excellent teachers and school leaders.
· Provide incentives for teachers to teach in the toughest schools.
o High standards and assessments, fair evaluations and strong work ethic are critical.
o We must implement user friendly; ongoing student tracking and utilize data to improve effectiveness and efficiencies.
· Create a new fair and equitable state-wide educational funding formula.
· Evaluate all teachers and administrators annually against others within their district, providing mentoring, training to struggling teachers.
· Evaluate teachers with the following 4 criteria:
o Administration review
o Peer review
o Parental review
o Standardized test scored of students
· Rank teachers based on their evaluations into a top 15%, middle 70% and bottom 15%.
o The bottom 15% receives mentoring and additional professional development to help these professionals raise their performance or they are moved along.
· Allow the creation of more charter schools.
· Use performance, qualifications and proven success to Best- Match teachers with schools and appropriate positions
· Develop a statewide model teacher's contract.
o Link state aid to school districts based on how closely the local contract follows the model's guidelines.
o Require all to be aligned with the state's fiscal year.
· Full day kindergarten and Pre-K programs for high risk students should be a goal.
· Provide an alternative path for non-certified but well qualified and vetted professionals to teach our children. A candidate with a PhD in Chemistry but not in Education should be allowed to teach in that subject.
· Triple the amount of Vocational training so students that are not college bound can graduate with a marketable and profitable skill.
· All graduates should be able to understand basic income tax forms, residential lease agreements, interest costs and their impacts on retail purchases, and basic mortgage financing principles. Once students become employees they should be able to understand their paystubs.
Rhode Island has a long and sorry history of public corruption. While the vast majority of our public servants do their jobs honestly and honorably, the sad truth is that there are some who do not. All three branches of state government have been affected. We have seen judges, governors and legislators resign in disgrace and/or go to jail. This culture takes a heavy toll and breeds cynicism and unfair distrust of all government officials.
A strong government ethics program is one of the central beliefs of the Moderate Party. We seek to identify those trouble spots in government which have been, or which could be, breeding grounds for the kinds of corrupt behavior which need to be eradicated. Here are a few.
The General Assembly is in session for about six months, yet it passes almost all-important bills in the last few days of the legislative session. This 'system' of operation permits leadership to exert tremendous control over the legislative process, but yields awful lawmaking. Legislators routinely and openly admit that they are voting on legislation they have never read, or perhaps even thought about. They are asked (or instructed) to vote on literally hundreds of bills over the course of just a few hours.
Legislative Grants are off-budget payouts to select groups and organizations decided solely at the whim of the legislative leadership. These giveaways can be used to coerce legislators by threatening to not provide funds for that legislator's pet projects. Not surprisingly, Democratic House leaders are granted the lion's share of these grants, proving that these goodies are wholly political in nature. It's time to end the Legislative Grant process.
As things stand now, public officials are allowed to act on matters in which they have a personal or business interest, as long as the action affects everyone in the legislator's business equally. Put more simply, we let our leaders enact laws that favor their own businesses. This is a giant loophole that all but guarantees conflicts of interest.
In the recent case brought by William Irons against the Ethics Commission, the Rhode Island Supreme Court approved another giant loophole, ruling that the "speech in debate" provision of the State Constitution prevents the Ethics Commission from prosecuting a legislator for his or her vote on a matter, even if the legislator is acting illegally or dishonestly in the matter. That is, the legislator can be prosecuted for accepting a bribe, but cannot be punished for casting the vote that he just sold. This ruling undermines the spirit and the letter of our most recent Constitutional Convention. The Moderate Party will fight to fix this, even if it means amending our Constitution.
Since 1994, the process of selecting Rhode Island's judges has involved an initial screening and recommendation by the Judicial Nominating Committee ("JNC"), selection by the Governor, and confirmation by the Senate. Over the past few years, however, the General Assembly has sought to grab a greater share of control by creating a number of magistrate positions and then exempting these judicial officers from the JNC process. The Moderate Party will end this dangerous end-run around our selection process.
· Require all legislative bills to be posted on line for thirty days before they can be voted on. This would enable the public to read and digest and react to the legislation before it is passed and too late.
· Stop the practice and use of Legislative Grants. The people are the best stewards of their money
· Close the giant “Class Exception” loophole in the Ethics Commission rules.
· Close the "speech in debate" loophole.
· Stop the end-run around judicial selection.
· Terms limits. New people bring new ideas and new perspectives. Limited the length of serving will also limit the temptation to engage in self-dealing.
· Create a cabinet level position of Auditor General to audit contracts, programs and departments for efficiencies, waste and fraud. This position should pay particular attention to the states TDI program and long-term disability program for municipal and state workers.
Preserving the environment is vitally important for Rhode Island, a densely populated state with an industrial past that has the major natural asset of Narragansett Bay.
Stewardship of the land, air and water is important for economic as well as environmental reasons.
As Rhode Island competes with other states for its future residents, a clean environment is essential. Educated and skilled workers are more likely to make Rhode Island their home if our natural environment has strong appeal. The Moderate Party supports the following initiatives;
· Create an A team to become the first energy independent state in the US. If Elon Musk can put a Tesla in space - as a people we can do this.
· Work to prevent offshore drilling of oil and gas.
· Delay any action on the Burrillville natural gas plant until the real facts, costs and impacts can be ascertained.
· Develop an urban policy that favors intensive development over sprawl. The redevelopment of cities such as Providence and Pawtucket, and inner suburbs such as Cranston and Warwick, should take precedence over new construction in such areas as the rural western half of the state.
· Where development does take place in the outer suburbs, it should be encouraged in historic village centers such as Greenville and Wakefield rather than in forested or agricultural areas.
· State zoning laws should encourage village-style development with lot sizes of a quarter-acre or less, with minimal grassy lawns rather than wasteful development of one- and two-acre lots with manicured and fertilized plantings.
· State government must take affirmative steps to remove the obstacles to the redevelopment of brown fields.
· Encourage the creation of in-law apartments and accessory dwellings in existing homes to reduce the demand for new unit creation.
· Allow for more innovative onsite sewage disposal systems.
Society, culture and the environment are constantly in a state of change. The Moderate Party’s and my principles and platform shall be revised often and changed and updated as needed to reflect the current state of the realities on the ground.
Faith in Rhode Island’s government has dissipated to the point where its citizens have begrudgingly accepted the utter ineffectiveness, the conspicuous wastefulness, and the consistent incompetence of government on both the municipal and state level.
I seek to restore hope in government. Beholding to no special interest, I and the Moderate Party candidates possess the ability to serve the needs of the taxpayer rather than the needs of the connected.
The foundation of this effort is buttressed by the four pillars of the Moderate Party; Economy, Education, Ethics, and Environment.
Economically, reason has been abandoned in our current budget process resulting in reckless spending and an ever increasing legacy of debt. Deregulation, tax reduction, centralized business licensing and inspection, and the ending of private/public partnerships must be enacted to attract commerce.
Educationally, a utilitarian standard of school buildings must be met. Educators must have greater accountability along with incentives for a superlative performance. Vocational education must be expanded to accommodate changes in the economy.
Ethically, Rhode Island has been the national punch-line of a hundred jokes about government corruption. We seek to change that attitude. The Ocean State can be a bastion of political decency. A working mechanism beyond the traditional dog and pony shows of toothless ethics review boards can be instituted to change the paradigm once and for all.
Environmentally, consideration of Rhode Island’s carbon footprint is a reasonable concern. Off Shore Oil Drilling, Natural Gas Plants, and other ecosystem threatening proposals must have the greatest of scrutiny to balance our energy needs with the safety of the environment.
The four “E’s of Economy, Education, Ethics, and Environment are the basis for mine and the Moderate Party’s statement of beliefs.
They should be the core of any candidate’s campaign. Further, they should be augmented by an unbridled earnestness to serve his fellow citizens above all other considerations.
Join me and the Moderate Party in working to create a new vision and a better version of our state. For a Better Rhode Island, join the Moderate Party.
Chairman and 2018 Candidate for Governor