Providence GOP Response To Elorza Budget Address



Subject: Providence GOP Response To Elorza Budget Address




The Co-Chairs of the Providence Republican Party, David Talan and William Ricci, have responded to Mayor Elorza’s recent annual budget address.  They called for balancing the city budget by reducing unnecessary spending, and not by raising taxes and fees; for reforming the bankrupt pension system; for fully funding the police department; for supporting the R.I. Commissioner of Education’s efforts to fix the failing public school system; and for emphasizing basic city services.

On balancing the city budget, the first thing the Mayor should look at is the huge amount of money needed in each year’s budget, to temporarily keep the bankrupt pension system afloat.  Most attention has been directed at the $2,000,000,000 unfunded liability for retiree pensions and health benefits, which will cause the City to go bankrupt a few years down the road (right after the current Mayor, who is term-limited, has left office).  Less attention has been paid to the huge amount included in each year’s budget, just to keep this system from collapsing right now.  Approximately 11 percent of the City budget (more than $80,000,000) goes for this, and the amount is projected to double in coming years.  This is money that is not available to fix potholes, hire enough police, repair schools, maintain parks, and to just hold down property taxes.

The city should get out of the pension business entirely.  New employees should receive an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), which they own themselves.  The city of Cranston did something similar a few years ago.  Under Mayor Allan Fung, 401(k) retirement plans began in 2010 for the Teamsters Union, and in 2015 for the Laborers Union.  We should follow Cranston’s example.

The GOP leaders repeated proposals they have previously made, to reduce the cost of the pension system.

Reduce the pensions of retirees who get so much money, that they would have to take a pay cut, if they came out of retirement, and went back to their old jobs.

Raise the minimum age to start collecting retirement benefits, up to age 60.  When Governor Raimondo reformed the state employees retirement system, she raised the minimum age for all current and future employees to collect a retirement pension.  Providence needs to do the same.

Ricci and Talan urged the Mayor to make it a priority to fully fund the police department (which is now almost 100 officers below its former authorized size).  Providence citizens want the police to be able to respond to quality of life issues, that neighborhood residents really care about.  In particular, they called for a complete ban on ATV’s anywhere in the city.  In addition to the traffic problems that they cause, their excessive noise makes them unacceptable anywhere at all in a crowded city.  (The Mayor had previously suggested off-road parks for them to use).

On education, the GOP leaders urged the Mayor to fully support State Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green, and the state takeover of the Providence schools, to fix all the things that the Mayor has been unable or unwilling to do, during his 6 years in office.

Talan and Ricci noted that, even with the state takeover, the city still pays one-third of the total $400,000,000 cost of running the School Department.  There are ways to trim spending, without harming the quality of our children’s education.

Transportation costs $16,000,000 a year, in the school budget.  Currently, 9,000 school children are forced to take a school bus, even though almost every single child in the City lives walking distance to a nearby Elementary or Middle School.  We need to return to a system of neighborhood schools, for those parents who would like to be able to choose this option (instead of having their children used as pawns in a game of musical-chairs forced busing).  Talan and Ricci believe that at least half of the 9,000 students, who are now bused, would be walking to school, if their parents were given this option.  Cost savings in transportation costs would be at least $6,000,000 per year.

Talan and Ricci also called for the Commissioner to allow an unlimited number of high-performing public Charter Schools for parents who would choose this option. The Mayor had been an opponent of this expansion, although he recently has relented (now that he is running for Governor).

The GOP leaders also supported the Commissioner’s efforts to “allow the community to be a part of the solution” for our public schools.  Talan, who is also President of the Reservoir Triangle Neighborhood Association, and on the Education Committee of the citywide Coalition Of Providence Neighborhood Associations, served on the Commissioner’s Design Team for Community Engagement.