Election 2012: East Providence Rep candidates discuss job creation
EAST BAY — Coverage of Election 2012 by The Post and eastprovri.com continues this week with the second of what looks to be three questions that due to time constraints will be able to be posed to the respective candidates for East Providence’s four State House of Representatives districts — 63, 64, 65 and 66 — leading up to the Sept. 11 Primary.
Unlike the first question asked of the candidates, their responses were limited to 250 words or less due to space limitations. Again, though, there were no edits to their answers as long as they stayed on point. Question 2 and the responses are as follows:
The Post: As a member of the House, what one single piece of legislation — be it tax policy, regulatory reform, etc. — you would propose that would have the greatest impact on job creation in the state?
Robert Britto, Democratic candidate, District 63: “As a member of the House, the one piece of legislation that I would propose that would have the greatest impact on job creation in the state would be similar to the ‘Back to Work Rhode Island Program Act of 2012.’ We should be focused on getting people back to work and assisting those who are unemployed learn new skills which will in turn help businesses grow.
“As stated in the pending House bill the purpose of the ‘Back to Work Rhode Island Program’ is to assist employers in locating and obtaining skilled and qualified employees at little to no training cost, and to provide the opportunity for job seekers to gain a ‘foot in the door,’ gain knowledge, learn new skills, and abilities and receive the opportunity for employment. I would propose that along with this pending bill that we offer incentives to businesses in this state to expand their workforce providing a mutually beneficial relationship for businesses and those seeking employment resulting in a much needed economic recovery for the entire state.
“We need to examine why Rhode Island’s business climate is considered dismal and these issues could be addressed in reforming the income tax code and working on the regulatory environment which would attract new businesses to our state and retain those businesses that choose to stay and fight to improve our economy.”
Katherine Kazarian, Democratic candidate, District 63: “It is no secret that job opportunities in Rhode Island are scarce. I constantly hear that friends and neighbors wish to move out of state. These comments sadden me when I think about all Rhode Island has to offer.
“But, we are living in tough times and, unfortunately, there is no quick fix. There is no magic bullet, single action solution to our problems. Instead, this state must pursue a focused agenda that aims to increase the attractiveness of Rhode Island for business owners, investors and entrepreneurs. State government needs to tightly control its spending while investing in areas of life that will give us all a return, like quality schools and carefully maintained roads. Additionally, while government has a role to play in regulating life and commerce, there are too many petty rules and regulations which interfere with the economy. If elected, I will seek support to conduct a systematic examination of the current statutes and regulations that affect business. Then, I will work to repeal those that do not make sense or are unnecessarily burdensome. This is a common sense approach which can yield real results.”
Sam Lovett, Democratic candidate, District 63: “Legislation to support job creation in 2013 needs to play two primary roles: 1.) creating quickly available positions for the more than one in ten Rhode Islanders who need work to support their families, and 2.) establishing systems for long term job generation and development of industries by which Rhode Island can produce and sustain itself for the long-term. The first can be accomplished by simplifying payroll tax requirements for employers who have the revenue needed to hire and expand their business operations but are too bogged down the complex tax code regulations in place for maintaining their existing employees. Rhode Island has consistently been ranked among the worst states in the country to do business, and our complicated unemployment insurance tax is annually cited as a big part of that problem. Simplifying that requirement should be among our state’s first points of focus next year. We need to put our businesses into positions where they can harness the upward momentum of economic activity stirring in our state. The second outcome, long-term job growth, needs to be approached through preparation of a workforce in the secondary and higher education systems that is ready to handle the high-tech manufacturing, design, and production needs of the future.
“Legislation that provides a pathway for businesses to communicate to education leaders the specifics of what a modern workforce needs to know will indicate that Rhode Island is ready to be the site and force for the building blocks of the future.”
David Sullivan, Independent candidate, District 63: “If elected,the first tax cut I would support in helping promote job growth would be cutting the sales tax. I’ll explain. Many people think that job creation is up to the government but it most certainly is not. The private sector creates jobs. The only jobs government creates is government jobs and some are for their friends. These government salaries in turn are then paid by you the taxpayer. The current general assembly is not helping private sector job growth, it’s actually hurting it with bad tax policy.
“Government has an important responsibility related to job creation.. It should facilitate an environment where businessmen and women can thrive. When employers consider where to start or expand their businesses, state tax policy is a key component in the decision making process. Businesses do demographic studies to ensure the customer base is able to afford what they are selling or services they render. After all, why do business in a state that’s not business friendly? Rhode Island under its current leadership is 50th, dead last in business climate according to CNBC, 2nd year in a row!. State sales tax can either invite or drive away potential customers thereby affecting business’ bottom line.This is why so many Rhode Islanders go over to Seekonk to shop. By taking the short drive to Mass they’ll pay less in sales tax or no tax at all on tax free days. Demand levels on goods and services determines how many employees will be hired or not.
“Rhode Island sales tax is seven percent. Mass. is less and New Hampshire’s is zero. Rhode Island’s unemployment rate is around 11 percent. New Hampshire is around 5 percent. If elected I would support cutting the sales tax in half to 3.5 percent. I believe all Rhode Island tax policy needs to be changed. When CNBC labels you the worst state to own a business in it proves that the policy makers are either clueless or that they are directly benefiting from the current system. Overtaxing and over regulating business hurts us all. If elected I’ll support changing that.”
Charlie Tsonos, Democractic candidate, District 63: “There are about 20 pieces of legislation needed in the next General Assembly in order to ‘fix’ the financial distress that exists in Rhode Island. One of my first priorities would be to initiate a State level Audit or Budget Commission in order to obtain an impartial assessment of all spending at State level.
“Let’s take the lessons learned from the Budget Commission in East Providence and direct our energy to the areas of savings at State level and to the areas in which streamlining, especially in the administrative and highest levels of State Government, without effecting the grassroots of the community and the classrooms of our State. Just as we have found in East Providence, savings must be explored within the State Administration, especially in each State Department. After the audit, the General Assembly should act expeditiously to control government spending.
“As has been found in East Providence, high level consolidation in administration and overspending at the top would naturally follow.”
Gregg Amore, Democratic candidate, District 65: “For a decade we have been told that reducing taxes on job creators spurs hiring. There is no evidence, locally or nationally, to support that claim. There is no doubt that we need to address the cumbersome regulatory process in order to make it easier to do business in Rhode Island but if we want to create long lasting, high paying jobs that can’t be outsourced, then we have to focus on expanding what we already do well.
“Rhode Island’s greatest economic assets are its ports. It is time to abandon the idea of waterfront development that is based on building residences and shopping centers and begin to focus on continuing the improvement of our ports in order to attract new businesses and create new jobs. Aside from a deep water container port at Davisville, which deserves a serious second look, there are immediate opportunities in the area of break bulk perishables that could make the Port of Davisville as successful in break bulk material transfers as it is in auto imports. With minimal investment in chill facilities and reefer plugs, which are necessary to store the break bulk cargo, Davisville would stand as a natural destination and transfer port for East Coast perishables. A continued expansion and improvement of both the Port of Providence and Quonset-Davisville would pave the way for more container feeder services, a flagship location for wind energy development, and potential expansion into project cargo and larger containers.
“ Rhode Island cannot afford to delay its efforts in this regard and I would make Port expansion, done with great environmental care, a top legislative priority.”
Joe Botelho, Moderate candidate, District 65: “It would be nice to think that one piece of legislation could get the job done but it is unrealistic. Sweeping economic reform was proposed in 1984 in the form of the Greenhouse Compact and was rejected by the voters by a 4 to 1 margin. Ira Magaziner, the architect of the plan cited in its postmortem that the voters panned it because they didn’t trust the political establishment at the time, and that it should have been introduced as a series of programs over a period of time.
“With that said, the return of jobs directly relate to the desire of businesses to settle and grow here. Businesses look at the tax and regulatory environment, infrastructure and quality of education when making decisions and where to locate, which would be difficult to overhaul in one piece of legislation. Currently RI ranks last in business climate, near the bottom in unemployment and 40th in educational achievement though our investment in education ranks 6th highest. On the last point, there is consensus among RI economic experts "that quality public higher education is essential to building a strong 21st century economy.
“Unfortunately, legislation eliminating the Board of Governors may have set educational governance back 30 years in Rhode Island, which was enacted in the wee hours of last day of the last session. Creating legislation which leads to jobs requires consistent and effective leadership at the Statehouse. Leadership that the people of RI and potential job creators can trust.”
Tim Chapman, Democratic candidate, District 65: “There is no one single piece of legislation that can have the greatest impact on job creation in our state. One of our problems has been trying to find the magic bullet (see 38 Studios failure) to solve the state’s ailing economy.
“Unfortunately, our state doesn’t support our own businesses. Rhode Island needs to refortify what businesses require, fast-tracking regulatory requirements and tax stability. Also, the state’s workforce must be better trained. That training must be enhanced through our colleges, community college, and vocational/technical schools.
“Rhode Island has some of the top universities and colleges in the country, but currently our graduates leave Rhode Island for jobs elsewhere. We must keep those bright minds to foster entrepreneurial, incubator and start-up companies.
“Furthermore, the state’s transportation system must be overhauled. We must look to provide incentives for businesses and their employees to use more efficient and better modes of transportation. Simple ideas like a designated commuter lane during high travel use and improving commuter rail service. Additionally, we need to prioritize the repair of roads and bridges. These projects and actions will create jobs, attract businesses, and make our state business friendly.
“Our state is well situated to take advantage of job growth in the education, health and professional sectors because of our resources and our proximity to Boston and New York. It’s time to take advantage of these assets.”
Jim Miller, Democratic candidate, District 65: “I believe we will need legislation to refocus the EDC’s loan program to target businesses in high growth sectors such as biotech and alternative energy with a cap of $5-10 million in loan guarantees from the state rather than pouring $75 million into a single business with no track record of success. These loans must be tied to specific job creation goals which are maintained over a specific period and the company’s finances should be reviewed by state auditors on a periodic basis during the life of the loan support. The lack of oversight with regard to 38 Studios and the sense that political connections and insider dealing dominated the process of awarding the company state loan guarantees leads to a climate of cronyism which drives businesses away.
“If the state can’t run an above-board loan program which involves regular monitoring to protect the state’s investment, then we are sending a message that Rhode Island is, when it comes to business development — a place where you succeed not on merit, but on connections. As long as there is a perception that these kind of insider dealings dominate the economic climate here, we will not be able to generate meaningful economic development in our state.”
Joy Hearn, Democratic candidate, District 66: “Rhode Island’s consistently high unemployment rate, currently at 11 percent, concerns me greatly. Many Rhode Islanders, after losing their jobs are unable to find work. There is no magic piece of legislation that would immediately lower that rate. What is doable is to continue to work to improve Rhode Island’s business climate.
“As a member of the 2010 legislature that undertook Personal Income Tax Reform, lowering the top marginal income tax rate from 9.9 % to 5.99%, I would propose, as my single piece of legislation, to rework and lower the corporate tax rate, which currently stands at 9%. This rate contributes to Rhode Island’s ranking of 46th among the 50 states in the Tax Foundation’s 2012 Business Tax Climate Index. Reworking that rate, along with easing Rhode Island’s regulatory environment, as I did with my recently enacted legislation allowing employers in any industry to petition DLT to pay employees less frequently than weekly, would help signal that Rhode Island is open for business.
“While tax structure is important, an educated workforce is critical for potential employers. We must continue to work on educating a 21st century workforce in our K-12 schools as well as create an environment that retains the 1000s of students that graduate from Rhode Island’s colleges to stay and create businesses here. Though Rhode Island is not alone among states facing a challenging economic recovery it is important that we continue our commitment to improving Rhode Island’s business climate so that those who want work will have jobs.”
Manfred Diel, Republican candidate, District 66: “We need to re-energize corporate America in looking at Rhode Island as a place to do business as a means to deal with Rhode Island’s ultra-high unemployment and lower standard of living due to the rate of pay of available jobs. We must be cognizant of our entire society that makes up our state.
“While companies like pharmaceuticals, financials, and bio-tech are wonderful, we also need what Rhode Island once had so much of: Manufacturing jobs. We have seen plans for Fidelity and G-Tech. It is time to get manufactures as a whole back to Rhode Island.
“I will put forth a bill that would set the groundwork for manufacturers to see Rhode Island’s tax paying citizens as a viable resource in their company’s goal to be competitive in their industry. My plan, unlike the abysmal failure of the EDC with 38 Studios, would be performance based incentives.
“Doing business in Rhode Island means relocating jobs here and expanding current businesses. If a company hires and maintains 100 new full-time Rhode Island living employees or doubles its work force whichever is higher, they would get a significant property tax relief for 10 years. If a company hires and maintains fifty new Full Time employees, the company would get a lower property tax relief for ten years.
“There should always be an action plan to pay for any initiative that a State Representative proposes. The ‘lost revenue’ to the host City or town would be compensated by the State, as the State would directly benefit from a lower unemployment rate with more people spending money and raising the revenue collected in taxes.”
Eugene Saveory, Independent candidate, District 66: "I do not have a specific piece of legislation that I can expand on with any great detail. I can only respond with the information that I have read or heard on the news. I have no idea if there are bills seating in committee that would address this issue directly. I am for a complete review of how the EDC (Economic Development Commission) works and what policies and benefits that are available to solicit new industry. I believe the EDC should be targeting the small to medium companies. We need to create incentives to attract industry not demolish older buildings and put up new ones.
“The first issue is to try and form an alliance to make our energy and service costs more competitive. Next issue would require tax adjustments to companies that support a high percentage of Rhode Island employees. To be specific, I would support any bill that address the issue of more jobs for Rhode Islanders. As the representative for Barrington and East Providence I would work very diligently to bring business to District 66.”