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State legislators join community advocates to push back against potential budget cuts

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A budget is a statement of our priorities – of the things that we value. Of course times are hard, and they’re apt to get harder before they get easier. But the answer is to invest in the things that keep us all strong and healthy – to prioritize the things that make Rhode Island resilient. It is not to throw our neighbors under the bus.”


Lawmakers gathered with advocates at the Rhode Island State House Tuesday afternoon, making clear their opposition to potential state budget cuts. The program, moderated by Interim Executive Minister of the Rhode Island Council of Churches, Chontell Washington, united advocates and lawmakers in sending a clear statement to state leadership: Any budget that is balanced at the expense of working families and struggling communities will have a hard time finding support. Advocates elevated the “Justice Budget” in particular, which calls for increased funding for affordable housing, $15 minimum wage, progressive tax reform, and cuts to spending on prisons and police, such as closing the high security facility at the Adult Correctional Institutes (ACI) and implementing geriatric parole starting at the age of 50.

“This year I introduced a bill that will increase taxes for the one percent,” said Representative Karen Alzate (Democrat, District 60, Pawtucket). “This bill will bring in approximately $128 million… raising taxes for anyone who makes over $475,000 in taxable income.”

Sucely Murillo, a mother who was evicted early during in the pandemic, said “We need more funds for renters, and we need to be more flexible for low-income people in Rhode Island. The system is not built for people like me. How am I supposed to get through this? It’s mentally, economically, and physically exhausting. And on top of that, I’m taking care of my kids. We could be working, taking care of our kids, but instead we are worrying about where we will live.”

“This budget must reflect the value we place on poor children, seniors, and the homeless,” said State Representative Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (Democrat, District 5, Providence), in a statement read by Reverend Washington. “This budget will inform all of our neighbors just how much or how little we care about each other. This budget must not be balanced on the backs of those most impacted by COVID-19. It is a moral imperative and our call to action that we pass a justice budget that puts people first.”

Representative John Lyle Jr (Republican, District 46, Lincoln) submitted a statement focused on preventing cuts to state higher education, saying, “The Governor’s FY21 budget proposal would leave Rhode Island College (RIC) with a $4 million deficit. I do not believe that we should be balancing the state’s budget on the backs of institutions like Rhode Island College which has such an important role in our state… I pledge to vote to increase state funding for Rhode Island College when I finally have a chance to vote on the FY2021 budget.”


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“A budget is a statement of our priorities – of the things that we value. Of course times are hard, and they’re apt to get harder before they get easier. But the answer is to invest in the things that keep us all strong and healthy – to prioritize the things that make Rhode Island resilient. It is not to throw our neighbors under the bus,” said State Senator-elect Meghan Kallman (Democrat, District 15, Pawtucket).

“A $15 minimum wage sounds like too much money until we frame it as $31,000 a year before taxes for a family of three [or] a family of four,” said State Senate District 6, Providence candidate Tiara Mack (Democrat). “We need $15 now and work our way to $24 or $26 a year…”

Representative John Lombardi (Democrat, District 8, Providence):

Community activist Suzette Cook:

Legislators or soon-to-be elected officials who attended or expressed their support include:

  • Representative Edith Ajello (Democrat, District 1, Providence)
  • Representative Alzate
  • Representative Craven
  • Representative Rebecca Kislak (Democrat, District 4, Providence)
  • Representative Jason Knight (Democrat, District 67, Barrington, Warren)
  • Representative Lombardi
  • Representative Lyle
  • Representative Ranglin-Vassell
  • Representative Teresa Tanzi (Democrat, District 34, Narragansett, South Kingstown)
  • Senator Samuel Bell (Democrat, District 5, Providence)
  • Senator Gayle Goldin (Democrat, District 3, Providence)
  • Representative-elect José Batista (Democrat, District 13, Providence, Johnston)
  • House Democratic primary winner Leonela Felix (Democrat, District 61, Pawtucket)
  • Representative-elect David Morales (Democrat, District 7, Providence)
  • Senator-elect Jonathan Acosta (Democrat, District 16, Central Falls)
  • Senator-elect Kallman
  • Senate Democratic primary winner Mack
  • Senator-elect Cynthia Mendes (Democrat, District 18, East Providence)

Advocates from the RI Working Families Party, Demand Progress, DARE, the Economic Progress Institute, RI Center for Justice, Childhood Lead Action Project, Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty, Tenant Network RI, ReclaimRI, and HomesRI said that there is a clear demand for a Justice Budget:

“Rhode Island is facing a historic set of economic, social, and environmental crises. This is no time to cut spending on vital social services,” said the organizing groups in a statement. “In fact, the people of Rhode Island have made it clear that we need more spending, not less. Our elected officials here today have made it clear that they won’t support an austerity budget. We hope our state’s leaders take note.”

Here is the rest of the video featuring Reverend Chontell Williams: