ALMOND REFLECTS ON PAST, ADDRESSES PRESENT CHALLENGES AND LOOKS TO THE FUTURE IN STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS
In tonight's State of the State Address, Governor Lincoln Almond declared, "We have lifted Rhode Island to new heights." Almond reflected on the last seven years, addressed present challenges, and shared his vision of Rhode Island's future. To build on the state's successes, Almond announced initiatives to enhance the impressive growth of the state's biotechnology industry, to make additional investments in higher education, and to revitalize our cities and towns by promoting the redevelopment of brownfields.
"I am pleased to report, the state of the state is resilient, filled with unlimited hope and prosperity, and surging ahead," said Almond. "You only have to look at some of our recent progress to see why."
Almond recognized Anthony Rotunno, vice-president and general manager of Immunex in Rhode Island, and Charles Swartz, business development manager for biotechnology of Dow Chemical Company. He noted that the two companies are investing a total of more than one billion dollars in the state. "That's proof positive that Rhode Island is well on the way to being known as a major biotech center," said Almond.
"To insure that we have skilled employees for the biotech industry, the Economic Policy Council has been working with Immunex and Dow to establish a biotech training institute." Almond noted the recent award of a $6 million federal grant to the University of Rhode Island to develop a statewide network to spur the growth of biomedical research.
"Together, we have made historic investments in our institutions of higher education, creating new high-tech academic buildings, computer labs and rehabilitated dorms," said Almond. "Now we have an opportunity to do more. That's why I will be recommending a $33 million bond to enhance infrastructure at Rhode Island's colleges and university."
Work would include $3.4 million in improvements for Rhode Island College roads, parking lots and entrances; $7.1 million in renovations for the Community College of Rhode Island – Knight Campus megastructure; and $23.3 million to make recommended upgrades to the water, steam and electrical distribution systems at the University of Rhode Island – Kingston.
Almond also recognized URI graduate and Rhodes Scholar Rachel Walshe in his speech. "By garnering this prestigious academic award, she has shown all Rhode Islanders what hard work and determination can bring," said Almond.
"I am proposing a new state tax credit to spur the redevelopment of neglected brownfields," said Almond. "This is all about doing the right thing for our environment and our economy. It will revitalize our cities and towns and maintain Rhode Island's image as a perfect place for companies to locate."
Much like last year's passage of the Historic Tax Credit legislation, the brownfields proposal would provide developers with a 30 percent tax credit that could be claimed over a ten-year period. The tax credits would make the re-use of abandoned or unmarketable properties economically feasible. In addition to revitalizing cities and towns, the credits would help bolster employment and the quality of our environment.
Quonset Point/ Davisville Industrial Park
"As you know, Quonset Davisville is one of many brownfields sites we have revitalized," said Almond. "What a remarkable transformation we have seen there. Kiefer Park is nearly full. Over the past seven years, 59 companies have opened their doors there and 18 existing companies have expanded. Our work is not done. That's why I am proposing an $11 million referendum for the November ballot to replace the Davisville bulkhead, demolish buildings, and improve roads and rails in the park.
"As we consider Quonset's future, the issue of a compact container port must remain on the table," said Almond. "Let me make this clear: the state has embarked upon a fair, open and independent process to determine once and for all if a port is both environmentally sound and economically feasible. There's so much potential at Quonset. Let's finally determine how we can best use the waterfront there. We must support a process that will give us real answers. We must not let misinformation stand in the way of scientific fact."
Almond referred to Rhode Island's national leadership in providing comprehensive health care; ensuring that women receive prenatal care; and creating an innovative expansion of childcare programs. "In the budget I submit to you next week, I will not recommend scaling back on these core programs," said Almond, "I urge you to follow my lead. We cannot roll back the pages on important programs that set the foundation for our children to lead fulfilling lives. That's shortsighted. We have to look down the road and see the generations that will have benefited from our investments in health care, childcare and education.
"It is my goal to maintain Rhode Island's competitive edge," said Almond. That's why we must hold the line on the income tax and the sales tax. I've said it before. I'll say it again. Hiking the income tax in the 1990s was a huge mistake. That, coupled with the banking crisis, kept us mired in the recession longer than any other state. Let's learn from the past. Let's not roll back the pages on progress.
"We have a difficult road to travel," said Almond. "But we will chart a fiscally responsible path for Rhode Island that will position our state to benefit from an upswing in the national economy. One way to put our state on strong footing is to enact the supplemental budget by March 1. If it is delayed, we will have tougher decisions to make and the budget will be far worse than what it is now because we will have lost revenues.
"We have tackled hard issues before. Together we will find the best solutions for our state."
September 11th Memorial
Reflecting on the impact of September 11th, Almond said, "As we begin to heal and rebuild as a nation, the single-most important thing we can do is remember. Tonight I am proud to announce that my administration will be working with the Council on the Arts to establish a memorial, which will be placed in the State House, to pay tribute to those who perished on September 11th. Next week, we will be launching the Rhode Island Remembers September 11th Fund. I am calling upon all of our residents to donate to this meaningful project."
Donations can be sent to the Rhode Island Remembers September 11th Fund, care of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, 83 Park Street, 6th Floor, Providence, RI, 02903.
Almond also recognized Major General Reginald Centracchio, Adjutant General of the Rhode Island National Guard, and Lt. Col. Marcus Jannitto in his speech, adding, "Together they represent so many others who put their lives on hold for God and country. Lt. Col. Jannitto of the 143rd Air Wing of the Rhode Island Air National Guard led a group of guardsmen who provided stress management support to Ground Zero workers.
A Look to the future
In closing, Almond shared his vision of Rhode Island's future: "I see children and families with health care and child care, schools where children are challenged, where teachers have mentoring programs, and where there is accountability. I see top-notch academic buildings at our institutions of higher education. I see families exploring open space, swimming at our pristine beaches, fishing in our parks and riding on our bikepaths. I see a balanced governmental structure - one with a separate and co-equal executive branch of government. I see the end of the efforts to build a casino in Rhode Island. I see a state where every man, woman and child lives in peace and harmony. Most of all, I see a Rhode Island where we uphold our state's motto—hope."