The Young Democrats of Rhode Island are disappointed but not surprised by the decisions that were released in Speaker Mattiello’s budget last Friday. The Speaker has consistently proven to support his cronies in government over hard working Rhode Islanders and violence prevention.
The Speaker’s decision to leave out funding for the Rhode Island Promise Program is particularly damaging to people of our generation, working students who cannot afford decades of crippling debt. According to Travis Escobar, of Millennial Rhode Island our state “shoulders a burden of $4.5 billion in debt.” The expansion of the Promise Program has the power to level the playing field and allow all of our students the chance of an education without a lifetime limited access to good credit and homeownership.
Additionally, the Speaker’s budget left out a proposed $590,000 in funding for mental health services in our schools. While Rhode Island matches the national average of mandating 1 guidance counselor per 400 students many of our schools only have academic counselors as opposed to non-academic counselors or school psychiatrists. The reality is too many of our students, particularly in our urban core struggle with mental illness induced by trauma, homelessness, and hunger. These are all issues that no child can tackle without social and emotional staff.
Most chilling is the Speaker’s deliberate decision to leave out a $200,000 line item in our comparingly massing $10 billion budget, a total cut to the Nonviolence Institute. The Nonviolence Institute provides countless invaluable services this year alone including responding to 83 violent incidents, provided 601 hours of job training for at-risk youth, supported 167 victims of violence with comprehensive services, trained 692 people in conflict resolution, and facilitated 27 housing relocations for victims of crime. The Young Democrats are concerned by the vindictive nature of the Speaker in cutting a program that provides so much tangible good and costs the state such a relatively small amount in comparison to other line items.