Department of Human Services:
The RI ACLU did not comment favorably on the lack of compliance for UHIP, the $340 million DHS computer system as there were no improvements in timely applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) reported from the April data. For those that qualify for emergency relief under federal law, this just adds additional pressure for Governor Riamondo to get it right.
The April report stated that 58% of the decisions on expedited (emergency) SNAP applications were made within the 7 days required by law, and 55% of the decisions on regular applications were made within the required 30 days, the same data reported in the month of March.
There is a mandate for DHS to steadily improve the processing of SNAP applications with a target of an 70-80% decision rate within the 7 day and 30 day time period. The ACLU said “this most recent report indicates that the state clearly needs to take stronger and immediate action to achieve compliance. We are considering steps we must take to make sure that hungry Rhode Island families and individuals receive in a timely manner, the food stamps to which they are entitled as a matter of federal law.”
Governor Riamondo says that the economy is working well and that the State is going in the right direction. Not so according to the numbers last week. The revenue was off by $99.6 million. Governor Riamondo accepted no blame for the shortfall and instead blamed President Trump and the uncertainty in Washington for the loss of revenue in RI. However, House of Representatives Speaker Mattiello and former Governor Lincoln Chafee both disagree and blamed Raimondo for her inability to manage the budget.
Job numbers also were revealed; 200 jobs were lost in RI last month, the second consecutive month with jobs lost according to the RI Department of Labor. “It’s disappointing,” House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin Abney, D-Newport, said after hearing the numbers. “Bad news,” agreed Rep. Kenneth Marshall, a Bristol Democrat and vice-chair of the committee. State Rep. Deb Ruggeiro, a Middletown Democrat and Finance Committee member, added that lawmakers’ focus would now be on “shoring up the programs we have before moving onto new adventures.” This spells a real disaster for Gov. Riamondo’s new plan for free tuition.
In January 2017, the governor proposed $46 million in Medicaid cuts as part of her plan to balance the budget and that leaves many in the House and Senate concerned for hospitals and nursing homes throughout the state. Overspending by state agencies, mostly tied to the plagued UHIP computer system, at the tune of $26 million in extra costs, is also a real concern. Business tax revenues are down as well.
Vistaprint is coming to RI, with up to 125 new jobs. However, Gov. Riamondo negotiated a $2.2 million tax incentive for the company to set up shop in RI, an incentive that so many printing businesses, and small businesses in general, were not offered, and they are furious with the deal and the revenue impact that Vistaprint could have on small printing companies.
The Governor’s Commerce Secretary negotiated a deal that would cost the taxpayers of RI millions in funding for a new PawSox stadium in Pawtucket. There are so many questions still yet to be answered about State financing for a minor league stadium. The owners of the of PawSox are collectively worth $8-10 billion, close to the entire RI budget. The Pawsox owners and their spouses have donated around $23,500 to Raimondo. The Laborers Union and building trade unions that represent 10,000 members have endorsed and donated approximately $38 million to her. I does not sound like the governor is terribly concerned for the taxpayers of RI that would be on the hook for millions under this deal.
Riamondo is also facing allegations that her hedge fund gamble cost the state pension fund $500 million and that the governor “blatantly ignored credible warnings”, regarding Riamondo”s State pension investment. Riamondo wants to spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to subsidizing Wexford Science & Technology’s development projects with $40 million in tax break incentives.
The Rhode Island State Retirement Board voted to approve more conservative estimates of the pension liabilities, raising the state’s unfunded liability to $6.8 billion, up from $4.9 billion, a 39% increase. This will most likely increase the amount that state workers and taxpayers contribute to the fund, most likely will impact budgets for all RI cities and towns and will most likely trickle down to a tax increase for all taxpayers.
In 2016, for the 2nd consecutive year, the Rhode Island State Pension Fund lost $466 million, 5.9%, due to the payout of benefits exceeding the return on investments.
A debacle that will cost the state $38.64 million. This month, RI Superior Court denied Gov. Riamondo’s petition to release the documents regarding the legal case against 38 Studios, ruling that “this Court finds that the Petitioner has not met her burden of demonstrating that the need for disclosure outweighs the need for secrecy.” The RI House has passed a bill to order the release of the documents, there has been no action yet by the Senate. “While I respect the court’s decision, I am disappointed with today’s ruling,” Raimondo said. “I have asked my legal team to review our options.” The legal battles are far from over between RI and 38 Studios.
Yes, it has definitely been a tough few weeks for Governor Riamondo.