2016-11-03 / Election News

General Assembly

House District 74 Candidates

The General Assembly candidates were asked the following question: What do you feel is the most important issue facing your constituents? And, how will you address it?

Deborah Ruggiero


Improving the quality of life of our citizens by protecting the environment, creating jobs, and providing a naturally occurring retirement community for our elders are important issues facing Middletown and Jamestown (and all of Rhode Island). I plan to sponsor legislation so elders can age with dignity in the community where they raised their family. Many of our senior citizens and retirees are on a fixed income. That’s why I voted to abolish the state tax on Social Security and pensions – military, private, and public – so our retirees have more money in their pockets.

Funding education is a priority for good-paying jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). And not every student will go to college. That’s why I voted to fund the three PTECH programs (one in Newport) where a local business partners up with a high school so students can learn job skills, graduate with a diploma or an associate’s degree, and are first in line for jobs that exist here in Rhode Island.

I’ll continue to be an advocate for agriculture and commercial fishing – with over 20,000 jobs – these are our friends and neighbors who work hard so we can buy local and eat fresh.

Rebecca Schiff


Rhode Island’s high cost of living is one of the main concerns voters tell me about. Rhode Island has one of the highest tax burdens in the U.S. and is consistently ranked as one of the worst places to retire. Many retirees leave the state due to taxes on military pensions and Social Security income, which should be fully repealed. Young people move away due to the high cost of living and lack of opportunity in Rhode Island.

I support the Middletown Tax Exploration Subcommittee’s recommendation to place a 2 percent cap on all property taxes per year, like California. This would be more affordable and predictable for residents and businesses, and easier to administer. I also support a full repeal – or otherwise, a phase out – of the unfair car tax.

Moreover, our electricity bills are among the nation’s highest, but the legislature continues to enact increased fees on utility bills. We need a balanced energy policy that encourages investment in renewable resources like wind and solar within our borders and also stimulates more production of inexpensive and plentiful natural gas-generated power, rather than going "all in" on expensive and unproven technologies that will drive up already sky-high utility bills.

House District 75 Candidates

Lauren Carson


Despite our rich history, the greatest challenge that Newport faces is defining our future. We must address issues facing our aging population and our risk of sea rise; define our 21st-century economic vision; and implement the strategic plan for our schools. We need to focus our efforts and define Newport as a 21st-century community that has preserved its past and created a today that is livable, walkable, sustainable and thriving.

I am determined to build a resilient Newport. I will continue to advocate for municipal and state action on flooding and sea rise. I support the development of the Innovation Hub, but I also want to focus on small businesses that are the centerpiece of our local economy by building a 75th House District Small Business Advisory Committee.

During this campaign, I heard two clear themes: focus on the young and old in our community. I look forward to the implementation of the school’s strategic plan and have begun an effort to address issues facing aging citizens, which needs to be expanded.

I am available to support the city’s leadership and administration in order to leverage state resources for our future. I look forward to serving a second term.

Michael Smith


As a father of three and a small business owner based here in Newport, I see the number one issue facing my neighbors is the need for Newport to become a year-round economy. While we are great at marketing tourism, I believe we can market Newport and Rhode Island in a similar fashion as a state that is opening its arms for startup business.

Nationally, Rhode Island is last in the nation for business climate. Not just because of regulations that make it hard to do business here, but also in having a prepared workforce. This leads to education.

When elected, my immediate plans are to work with our local, state, and Washington delegations to speed up the process of the business incubator hub, the realignment of the bridge ramp, and the development of 75 acres of opportunity for open spaces and a vibrant year-round economy.

Let's sail Newport forward!

Senate District 13 Candidates

Sav Rebecchi


Clearly our district has a variety of needs that are constantly being evaluated and prioritized by our local leadership. My work at the Statehouse will be 100 percent in concert with their goals.

A personal analysis of the research presented at Planning Board meetings on the city’s comprehensive plan is that affordable housing needs are the most challenging, especially for the projected growth of our senior population and the quality of life services they deserve.

The Planning Board projects an additional need for affordable housing to address moderate income workforce growth expected from the Innovation Hub development.

While Newport’s 17 percent level of affordable housing inventory exceeds the 10 percent goal of the state’s mandate, Jamestown, on the other hand, which is part of District 13, struggles to reach 4 percent due to limitations with water and sewer services that restrict multi-unit construction, making the cost of reaching their mandate prohibitive.

My solution will be to present a modification to the state’s affordable housing mandate law to implement a program similar to what has been done in Massachusetts.

It will allow the combining of Jamestown and Newport’s resources to meet a district-wide inventory level that will satisfy the mandate and create a win-win for both communities.

Teresa Paiva Weed


Preserving the character and quality of life in our community through protection of our environment, affordable health care and a high performing education system are priorities for everyone and are important issues that the residents of Newport and Jamestown are deeply concerned about. However, the ongoing growth of our economy and our ability to innovate is the most important issue we face.

By working together with our city and town leaders and businesses, we have secured investment in Newport County’s infrastructure, schools, open space and human services. However, there is still much to accomplish. Working together with our local officials and the federal delegation, I look forward to seeing our shared vision for development of the city’s North End become a reality. The Innovation Hub will attract new ideas, new technologies, new business opportunities for collaboration, and new high quality job opportunities. In addition, I am committed to continuing to be an advocate for our veterans, the developmentally disabled, those who are served by mental health centers, and the elderly. I believe that working together we are making a difference and can make our community a better place to live, work and raise a family.

Senate District 12 Candidates

Louis DiPalma


From my frequent interaction with constituents and from visiting thousands of residents during the last few months, what I frequently hear as the most pressing issue facing the District is the state’s fiscal climate which impacts us all. Typically the conversation centers on our state’s annual budget and our state’s economy/jobs climate.

It is critical we continue to proactively address our state’s structural budget deficits, which we have done over the last several years, while at the same time making critical, targeted investments in jobs/ economy and education, specifically science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

With respect to addressing our structural deficits, we have expended significant effort with re-inventing Medicaid, where we’re now saving greater than $70 million annually, while maintaining eligibility criteria and associated rates for necessary services. It is paramount we ensure government is running efficiently and effectively. Only then can we ensure that we are getting the most out of our collective tax dollar.

While progress is being made, more remains to be accomplished. Growing our economy will afford us the ability to lessen the tax burden for all residents of District 12. Additionally, working toward achieving municipal shared services will allow us to ultimately lower property taxes, which benefits all district residents.

Amy Veri


Business owners face increasing taxes, fees and regulations. They are forced to pass along this mounting expense to the consumers (you). The expense of running a business forces many employers to cut employees, salaries and benefits to stay viable in Rhode Island. Fewer businesses mean fewer jobs. Fewer jobs mean less money in the economy and in our pockets. We need to strengthen the business climate by cutting taxes, fees and streamlining regulations.

The current legislative solution is to lure large businesses here by offering tax breaks and incentives. At the same time, the businesses already operating in Rhode Island are ignored and are forced to pay high taxes and fees. Many businesses utilize trucks to deliver and receive goods, and the truck tolls will increase the cost of doing business, a cost that will be passed on to you.

An overlooked solution is to model Rhode Island’s business taxes, fees and regulations after states such as North Carolina, where the business economy is flourishing. As senator, I will propose legislation to reduce sales and corporate taxes, streamline regulations, and abolish tangible property taxes for businesses earning less than $500,000 annually.

House District 72 Candidates

Linda Finn


Voters want two things from their government and leaders: accountability and transparency. They want to know elected officials are working for them, and not for personal gain or special interests.

They want financial accountability, too; along with lower taxes for individuals and businesses, stable revenues, safe roads and bridges, good schools and affordable homes.

It won’t be easy. According to a new tax report, the state has already promised $1.9 billion in tax credits, deductions, exclusions, abatements, deferrals and preferential tax rates. As your state representative, I will call for a citizen’s commission to review Rhode Island’s tax incentive programs. Do they create jobs? Do they benefit all Rhode Islanders, or just a few insiders? We need to eliminate programs that don’t work.

Rhode Island pays more for its prison system than it does for higher education. I will work with others on legislation to reduce the number of parolees who return to prison. (More than half do, one of the highest recidivism rates in the nation.)

A sound budget, good schools, more jobs and a transparent and accountable government: it’s all attainable. But we need good leaders with proven track records to make it happen.

Ken Mendonça


Rhode Island is in the bottom ten in most economic categories and its economy has been lagging for decades. A healthy economy causes a positive chain reaction as it creates jobs, increases employment, reduces unemployment costs, increases personal income, raises state revenues and elevates property values. The increased revenues can then be reinvested in our people through tax reductions for the elderly and to assist those who are the most vulnerable. The revenue surplus can be used to fix infrastructure.

Many economists have recommended lowering the corporate tax and sales tax to help move the economy in an upward direction. Most small businesses in Rhode Island are corporations and would benefit from such reductions. Those are viable options that must be pursued.

I would also propose a challenge to all higher education graduate programs located in Rhode Island and fund them with a small budgetary grant to develop a business plan for the state based on hard factual economic data and case studies. The best business plan or components of each business plan would then be taken into consideration to help formulate our economic stimulus strategy. The educational institutions with the proven winning strategies would then be rewarded with a budgetary grant for their efforts.

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