Gubernatorial candidates lay out vision for Rhode Island

Former Rep. Joe Trillo (I), Governor Gina Raimondo (D), and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung (R) at the 2018 WPRI Gubernatorial Debate. Photo by Matt Allen.

By JENNIFER McDERMOTT, The Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island’s major gubernatorial candidates have different plans for how to improve the state’s economy, combat opioid addiction and keep school children safe.

On Nov. 6, voters will choose between Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, Republican nominee Allan Fung and independent Joe Trillo.

Raimondo says she’s running to cement the state’s economic momentum and she’d expand job training programs. Fung wants to lower the sales tax so residents will shop more in the state, to help local businesses. Trillo is proposing a new loan program for entrepreneurs.

A poll last week showed Raimondo had 48 percent of the potential vote, compared with 34 percent for Fung and 5 percent for Trillo.

Raimondo, the state’s first female governor, is seeking a second term. Fung is Cranston’s mayor and Trillo is a former Republican state lawmaker. Here’s a look at what they would each do if elected.

ECONOMIC PLAN

The jobless rate in Rhode Island was one of the worst in the nation during the recession, reaching peaks of more than 11 percent from 2009 to 2011. Rhode Island’s unemployment rate recently ticked down to 4.0 percent.

If re-elected, Raimondo says she would expand job training programs she started so every resident has access to affordable job training, and she would seek to make larger investments in helping small businesses. She wants to continue offering tax credits and incentives to attract companies to Rhode Island.

Fung wants to lower the sales tax from 7 percent to 5 percent and offset lost tax revenue with savings from cutting waste and fraud. He also wants to slash business fees and taxes.

Trillo has proposed loans for people who want to start a business but are disqualified from borrowing money through traditional means. He said he’d also seek to reduce sales tax, business fees and regulations.

OPIOID ADDICTION

There were 323 accidental drug overdose deaths in Rhode Island last year, down 13 deaths from 2016. Health officials are crediting an expanded program that treats prisoners for opioid addiction with helping lower the number after years of steady increases.

Fung said the state needs more treatment beds and community outreach. He’d like to investigate whether a shuttered hospital in Pawtucket could be converted into an addiction treatment center.

Raimondo said she would stay focused on initiatives to raise awareness, reduce the stigma of drug addiction and help people get into treatment. Raimondo established a task force on preventing overdoses in 2015, unveiled an action plan in 2016 to reduce overdose deaths and signed an executive order in 2017 to prevent addiction and offer treatment.

Trillo supports prescription drug monitoring and additional outreach, including the creation of a hotline.

SCHOOL SAFETY

Raimondo took executive action to ban guns in schools, except for those carried by police, since the February 2018 mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida. She’s pushing for an assault weapons ban in Rhode Island and she has urged schools to use a school construction fund to step up security.

Fung has put forward proposals to help districts pay for school resource officers, or police details, and to pay for security upgrades in individual schools.

Trillo has proposed additional security measures and issuing a special permit for school faculty who want to carry a gun after extensive training.

ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY

Rhode Island is home to the first U.S. offshore wind farm. With 400 miles of coastline, it’s vulnerable to rising seas and changes in climate.

Fung says he supports renewable energy, but it can’t be forced on people. He said he’s proud of a solar farm project in Cranston and the city’s actions to preserve open space and buy properties too close to waterways that are prone to flooding. He said the state should do more to support efforts to clean waterways.

Raimondo, who wants to grow the offshore wind industry in Rhode Island, says the state should be a leader in moving toward renewable energy. She said she plans to develop a strategy for reducing emissions from modes of transportation.

Trillo supports renewable energy and the wind farm concept, though he’d want to evaluate the energy rates and impact on fishermen.

ABORTION RIGHTS

Raimondo is pro-abortion rights. She wants the state legislature to codify the Roe v. Wade ruling.

Fung said he “respects a woman’s right to make a medical decision with commonsense limitations,” during a debate with WPRI-TV. He would not elaborate when pressed on what that means. Trillo is anti-abortion and says he’s “deeply disturbed” by how many occur annually, but isn’t currently planning to act on that view.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP

Fung supports the Republican president’s work on the economy and border security, but distances himself on other topics. He says he disagrees with the administration’s stance toward pre-existing conditions and he wouldn’t change the state’s health insurance exchange.

Raimondo says it’s a “constant challenge” as governor to protect Rhode Islanders from Trump’s policies on health care, offshore drilling and other issues. She said she’ll work with the administration when it does good things for Rhode Island, such as the recent award of a large grant to prevent opioid overdoses.

Trillo was Trump’s campaign chairman for Rhode Island. He supports Trump’s policies, but not the way the president sometimes handles himself publicly.

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