PROVIDENCE — In a strongly worded letter penned directly to House of Representatives Finance Committee Chairman Helio Melo, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee urged House leadership to rethink portions of the economic development package the group proposed with much fanfare last month.
The three-page tome points specifically to four bills currently being considered by Chairman Melo’s Finance Committee: H6001 – An Act Relating to State Affairs and Government – Executive Office of Economic Development; H6063 – An Act Relating to State Affairs and Government – Executive Office of Commerce; H6071 – An Act Relating to State Affairs and Government – Rhode Island Commerce Corporation; and H6074 – An Act Relating to State Affairs and Government – Executive Office of Economic Development.
In voicing his opposition to the measures, the Governor referenced Rhode Island’s recent employment uptick, which saw the rate of those without work dropping to 9.1 percent. That number is a 1.5 percent improvement from just a year ago, the lowest in the state since November of 2008 and largest over-the-year change since April of 1985.
“These bills would jeopardize the important work being undertaken by several of the state agencies that would be dismantled by some of the proposed pieces of legislation,” Gov. Chafee wrote in the letter dated May 7.
He continued, “The benefits of consistent, reliable, and predictable points of contact, leadership, and relationships with the business community should not come at the cost of reconfiguration of parts of state government for the sake of saying we did something. If these bills were to pass, it may result in several unintended consequences that will make Rhode Island stand out for all of the wrong reasons.”
Chairman Melo (D-Dist. 64, East Providence, House Speaker Gordon Fox and Majority Leader Nicholas Mattiello introduced their legislative package to a large gathering of the press, staff and their peers on Thursday, April 25.
At that time, and in ensuing statements, Speajer Fox said the “status quo” in terms of Rhode Island’s economic development was not good enough. The creation of the Executive Office of Commerce, he added, was a key element of his team’s plans.
Likewise, in an interview with The East Providence Post and eastbayri.com Chairman Melo said while other elements of the package could stand on their own, could improve the state’s short and long-term economic outlook, the Commerce portions, which would also create a new Secretary of Commerce and make that person the chief officer of a reconfigured Commerce Commission to replace the EDC, were vital to the overall health of Rhode Island’s economy.