Gov. Raimondo sought to act with urgency in 1st 100 days to stop Rhode Island's decline

Economic Indicators Associated Press

Gov. Gina Raimondo vowed in her inaugural address that she would think differently and act urgently to stop the state's decline.

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In her first 100 days in office, many said she's kept that promise.

Raimondo, the state's first female governor, rolled out a budget last month that puts job creation front and center, with funding to offer tax credits for projects that produce jobs, attract businesses to the land freed up by the relocation of Interstate 195 and provide capital for small businesses.

The Democratic governor signed an executive order to cut down on unnecessary regulations and attract businesses to Rhode Island. A working group she established is figuring out how to cut Medicaid costs to help eliminate the deficit.

Rhode Island hasn't rebounded from the recession like other New England states have, and it has struggled for years with one of the highest unemployment rates in the U.S.

The state's manufacturing sector was hit particularly hard. Bill McCourt, executive director of the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association, said Raimondo brings a much-needed — and appreciated — sense of urgency to the governor's office.

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"She not only has her ideas on what has to be done, and we can disagree on ideas, but it's nice having someone who knows how to lead and is willing to take action," he said.

Democratic state Rep. Joseph Shekarchi, who helped lead the governor's transition committee, said Raimondo promised that the economy would be front and center, and it has been. Senate Minority Leader Dennis Algiere, a Republican on the committee, said although he has concerns about Raimondo's budget proposals for new and increased taxes, he thinks she's "going in the right direction."

"So far I think she has lived up to what she said she was going to do," Algiere said.

While Raimondo's focus has been on the economy, she has had to deal with two other pressing matters during her first 100 days — the weather and the legal fight over the 2011 landmark overhaul of the state's public pension system that she crafted as treasurer.

Raimondo earned praise from politicians, business leaders and some of her critics for how she handled the late January blizzard that dumped 2 feet of snow on some parts of the state. She issued a travel ban and often appeared on the news, telling residents to "hunker down."

This month, after years of legal wrangling over the pension reform, a deal was announced in court that preserves 90 percent of the savings for the state and resolves six of nine lawsuits. The deal clears the way for Raimondo to build bridges with unions and move on with her agenda, said Maureen Moakley, a political science professor at the University of Rhode Island.

Raimondo said she'll keep working to create opportunities for Rhode Islanders and to help businesses grow, expand and create jobs. She's marking Thursday's 100-day milestone by visiting the 100th Rhode Island farm to be preserved by the state and a food business incubator, and she's also celebrating the 100th anniversary of two businesses.

"My commitment will remain steadfast for the next 100 days and beyond," she said.

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, a Democrat, said the governor is "very dynamic" and is working hard to improve the state. But, he said, the budget needs close scrutiny and there are some proposals in it he doesn't support.

"I give her good marks in her first 100 days, but there's a lot of work to be done before the results, and the fruits of all of our labor, are realized by the economy through job creation," he said.

Democratic state Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, the deputy majority leader, said there's "definitely a buzz" about what Raimondo is saying and doing, and now it's time to act on it.

"That hope is resonating," she said. "She says let's get it done. Now, let's get it done."