ALMOND SAYS NEW ECONOMY HAS TRANSFORMED ALL CORNERS OF RHODE ISLAND
Initiatives designed to create greater opportunity for all Rhode Islanders focus on the economy, education, urban development, housing and e-government
Governor Lincoln Almond tonight presented his seventh State of the State Address, saying the new economy has transformed all corners of Rhode Island, and that we have created a new progressive, robust and bold image for ourselves. To build on that positive momentum Almond announced initiatives that address the economy, education, urban development, housing and e-government.
"I am pleased to report that the State of the State is stronger and more vibrant than it has been in decades," said Almond. "We've enhanced our quality of life in every way imaginable. And I see more dynamic changes on the horizon. Tonight, I would like to focus upon the economy and developing greater opportunity for all to prosper."
"Without question, we have brought the new economy to Rhode Island, and it's here to stay. It's in Northern Rhode Island with our booming financial services industry with Fidelity and Fleet, and with Dow Pharmaceuticals. It's in Aquidneck Island where we have one of the highest concentrations of electrical engineers in the United States," said Almond. "It's in Quonset with plans to bring the latest broadband technology and with our vision for a full service port. It's in our capital city with 'smart buildings' and dot.com companies cropping up. It's moving its way down the tracks to Warwick with our vision for a train station and future economic development."
To maintain the state's competitive edge and to encourage business investment in Rhode Island, Almond called for the elimination of the tax on capital gains. "We want to encourage residents to stay in Rhode Island while investing and saving for their future," said Almond. "We want companies here and outside of Rhode Island to invest in our state. That's why we must make the capital gains tax a thing of the past." The tax on stocks, mutual funds and other holdings would be phased out in five years under Almond's plan.
Almond also proposed an initiative to make certain the state has the skilled labor pool needed for the demands of the new economy. "It's estimated that there will be approximately 2000 Information Technology jobs available this year and thereafter," said Almond. "That's why we need to team up with the Human Resources Investment Council, with institutions of higher education and with members of the technology industry to establish an Information Technology Center at CCRI.
"By investing $525,000 in this joint venture, we will be creating a statewide network to create a pool of employees for the technology industry," said Almond. "Whether you're a high school senior, whether you're a welfare recipient or whether you're looking for a new job opportunity, we will assess your abilities and refer you to the best entry point in the training network."
Almond is also proposing $1 million to develop a new Slater Center for Progressive Manufacturing to bring manufacturing technology into the 21st century. "As we look to create jobs for the next generation of Rhode Islanders, we must invest in industries that push new frontiers and bring innovative ideas from the laboratory into the marketplace."
"We want to duplicate the success we've seen at Davies at all of our Career and Technical Schools," said Almond, referring to the highly successful curriculum offered at the Career and Technical school in Lincoln. To transform Rhode Island's Career and Technical Schools into a system of schools that prepare students for the workforce and lifelong learning, Almond is proposing legislation to implement the reforms outlined in the Career and Technical Schools Task Force Report. The recommendations of the Task Force focus on high-level academic standards for every student along with increased involvement of the business community in the design, implementation and evaluation of programs and curricula. The report also recommends a greater state role in providing policy direction and oversight to the career and technical education system.
Almond highlighted two initiatives designed to prepare teachers for the classroom of the 21st century: the Master Teachers program and Mentoring. Almond is proposing to invest $400,000 to develop a Master Teachers program through which teachers will work with college faculty to bring the latest teaching methods back to the state's public schools. To improve student achievement and enhance teachers' skills, Almond is proposing $250,000 to expand the state's mentoring program. "Teachers want more opportunities to further hone their skills and we're committed to providing them," said Almond.
Redoubling the state's efforts to boost economic development in Rhode Island's urban core, Almond is calling for the creation of the Southside Urban Revitalization Fund. In his budget, which will be released next week, Almond is recommending that $3.5 million be spent over two years to work with community development agencies in Providence to renovate blighted properties, create jobs for local residents and improve housing. "It's time to spur economic development back into the south side of our capital city," said Almond.
Citing affordable housing as one of the state's most urgent needs, Almond proposed a $25 million bond for the 2002 ballot to assist cities and towns in revitalizing neighborhoods by increasing homeownership opportunities. "Through this bond issue, the state will be able to leverage federal and private funding," said Almond. "This will mark the first significant state investment in housing. It will provide those who never thought they could buy a house the chance to do so. Homes are where family traditions begin. They are where values are built, where children take their first steps, and where holidays are celebrated. Let's set the foundation for more affordable housing by approving this bond."
To improve government efficiency and customer service and keep Rhode Island competitive, Almond is proposing that the state invest $8.4 million to upgrade its computer system and information technology. "Rhode Islanders should be able to log-on to one convenient website and renew their drivers' license, bid on state proposals and even apply for a new fishing license," said Almond. To keep the state ahead of the technology curve in the future Almond is proposing the creation of a Rhode Island E-Government Fund, a targeted revenue source in the state budget for Information Technology.