Paul Roselli Wants to Fix Transportation, Healthcare, and the Environment—and Get Rhode Island’s Economy Out of a ‘1940s Mode’

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Paul Roselli has worn many hats in his life: documentary filmmaker, environmental activist, land steward; he’s even worked stints in corporate America and university relations. Now he wants to add the title Governor of Rhode Island to that list. Prior to announcing his candidacy last September, Roselli was best known as a leading opponent of the fracked gas power plant in Burrillville, where Roselli runs a local land trust. The Democratic challenger to Gov. Gina Raimondo says his decision to enter the race was initially inspired by his disappointment in Raimondo’s “arrogant” and disingenuous response to the concerns of Burrillville activists opposed to the power plant and her acceptance of campaign contributions connected to Invenergy, the Chicago-based company behind the project. But, Roselli says, his message has since broadened, and his goal is to fix Rhode Island’s transportation, healthcare, economic and environmental challenges through a “holistic” approach no longer stuck in the 1940s.

When Roselli and I sat down recently to discuss his campaign, we began by talking about Gov. Raimondo’s focus on building the state’s military-based economy, including her awarding of millions of dollars in subsidies to nuclear-armed submarine maker Electric Boat, a division of General Dynamics, a Fortune 100 company and one of the nation’s largest Pentagon contractors. Below is an edited and condensed version of our conversation. Continue reading

Corporate Accountability Is Not a Priority in Rhode Island

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When writing the headline for this piece, I initially went with: “Corporate Accountability Is an Afterthought in Rhode Island.”

But I quickly realized that would be a little misleading to readers, as the word “afterthought” implies a person, or group of people, actually starts thinking of something at some point. And I don’t get the impression our governor and her administration ever became too concerned about holding accountable the corporations that have leaned on taxpayers for years.

Take for instance the case of Navy contractor General Dynamics-Electric Boat and its use of jobs training funding in Rhode Island. Continue reading

General Dynamics and the Undermining of Democracy in Rhode Island and Connecticut

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This is a quick reminder that I am in the middle of a fundraising campaign to support the journalism produced here at Nunes’ Weekly. If you have contributed already, thank you so much! If you haven’t, please consider supporting my reporting with a donation. Every dollar counts:

If you’re a Connecticut resident who was caught off guard last week by Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy’s announcement of an $83-million subsidy package to U.S. Navy contractor General Dynamics-Electric Boat, don’t worry—you weren’t alone.

That’s because, while Malloy’s self-described “historic long-term partnership” with Electric Boat had been in the works for months, the giveaway to cover infrastructure expansion and workforce development costs at Electric Boat’s Groton shipyard was virtually impossible for the public to follow and weigh in on in any meaningful way.

From what the public could see, it all started in January when Sen. Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) announced her plan to introduce a bill offering $100-million to Electric Boat for facility expansion, and another $50-million for employee training. A placeholder for the “Act Concerning Funding For Submarine Jobs and Opportunities” was posted online with zero details and then never updated. Continue reading

Despite State Law, Rhode Island Has Never Evaluated Its Business Tax Incentives

[NOTE: An audio version of this story aired on Rhode Island Public Radio.]

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In 2013, Rhode Island lawmakers directed the state’s revenue department to analyze tax incentives created to spur economic development. The idea was to assess whether those incentives were actually working.

Linda Katz, co-founder and policy director of the non-profit Economic Progress Institute, was one of the people who supported the law.

“It’s the bang for the buck,” said Katz, whose organization advocates for policies that benefit lower-income Rhode Islanders. “We want to know if we’re giving away money in order to either attract a company here, keep a company here, try to ignite some activity, that we know that, at the end of getting that tax break, we’re actually better off than we were before the company got here.”

But there’s one key problem: the state has yet to produce a single evaluation required under the law. The first report was due last June. Continue reading

Maine State Rep. Jennifer DeChant Sought Corporate ‘Talking Points’ to ‘Counter’ Activists

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When faced last year with growing criticism over her plans to propose a $60-million tax deal to one of Maine’s largest private employers, state Rep. Jennifer DeChant turned to an apparently reliable ally: the very company she was advocating for.

“Jon- I am sure you have seen the Op Ed piece below,” DeChant said in a Dec. 4 email to Bath Iron Works attorney Jon Fitzgerald, following the publication that same day of a commentary in Portland’s Press Herald by peace activist Bruce Gagnon, titled, “General Dynamics has no business asking for more tax breaks.”

DeChant continued, “I am looking for some talking points to counter this.” She suggested they would be used in an upcoming meeting with constituents. Continue reading

Extending Bath Iron Works Tax Deal Would Ignore State Consultant’s Review

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As some Maine lawmakers and defense contractor General Dynamics see it, the state needs to continue its Shipbuilding Facility Credit, due to expire this year, if it wants to maintain the competitiveness of subsidiary Bath Iron Works and a crucial part of the state’s economy.

But, if Maine were to keep the multi million-dollar-a-year program going without first making substantial revisions to what some call an obvious sweetheart deal, it would be going against the advice of the very consulting firm it hired to evaluate its tax incentive programs. Continue reading

Rhode Island is Still Not Complying With Its Own Law on Evaluating Tax Incentives

[NOTE: This story is part of an ongoing reporting project being developed for Rhode Island Public Radio.]

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Rhode Island appeared to be headed in the right direction in 2013 when it signed into law the Economic Development Tax Incentives Evaluation Act, officially requiring regular analysis of its many “business development” tax breaks to corporations.

But, more than four years on from its enactment, the Evaluation Act has yet to amount to much more than a symbolic victory for the advocates for government and corporate accountability who helped push it through.

Continue reading