By: Samantha Fenlon
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo is feeling positive as she wraps up 2017 and gets ready to begin the last year of her first term.
“I feel we are ending the year with momentum,” said Raimondo.
In a wide ranging sit-down interview with ABC6 News, Raimondo touted her biggest accomplishment as the creation of jobs in the Ocean State.
Major jobs announcements this year have included global technology giant Infosys building a design and innovation hub in Providence and Virgin Pulse relocating from Framingham to Rhode Island.
“There’s cranes in the sky, there’s companies coming here to hire Rhode Islanders and people are feeling a bit more hopeful,” said Raimondo.
Governor Raimondo says the biggest challenge this year has been dealing with the state’s troubled benefits system UHIP.
“We’re still struggling to get the UHIP system to work the way it needs to work,” said Raimondo. “And, the message that I have for Rhode Islanders is we're not going to stop until it is completely fixed.”
The problem plagued system has caused a constant barrage of problems since its launch.
This year, several high ranking officials including the head of Health and Human Services and DHS director resigned as a result. And, even with a new staff in place the problems have continued.
In fact, back in October thousands of unprocessed applications were discovered by the system's vendor Deloitte.
The state has been withholding payments from the company since January. They have also received tens of millions of dollars back because of the on-going problems.
“At some point we will get rid of them but not now because they have to finish the job. They’re the ones who built the system they have to make it work and then we'll see if it makes sense to sue them, to fire them. We’ll take whatever steps we need to take at that time,” said Raimondo.
Another big issue ABC6 broached with the governor is the looming uncertainty in Washington; specifically we asked Raimondo about threats that could mean a $90 million a year loss in the state for those who rely on food stamps.
“If you say what keeps me awake at night it’s the President and the Congress who are constantly throwing road blocks in the way of our progress,” said Raimondo.
When asked if there is enough money to supplement the millions that could be lost, the governor said, “We’ll find as much as we can, but no.”
Another major hurdle ahead in 2018 will be tackling the budget. The state is facing a projected deficit of $209 million dollars for the next fiscal year.
The governor says balancing the budget will boil down to making necessary cuts.
“There will have to be. No doubt about it,” said Raimondo. “We’re looking hard at Medicaid it’s a third of the budget. I am confident that we'll get through it.”
Switching gears to the next legislative session and the yet to be voted on deal to keep the PawSox in Pawtucket. The General Assembly will take up the revised legislation in the New Year, but the delay in a vote has some including Pawtucket’s mayor worried the team could decide to move to Worcester instead.
“The legislature should come back do its job and pass it. I don’t know what they are waiting for. It’s a good deal for taxpayers. I think in the long run it’s not going to cost taxpayers of Rhode Island anything,” said Raimondo.
On another topic, we asked the governor about Colonel Ann Assumpico and how she thinks the new leader of the Rhode Island State Police is doing.
“She has substantially diversified the command staff. And, she’s doing an awful lot to make the State Police a culture of inclusivity. So, I think after one year I’d give her a solid grade,” said Raimondo.
Looking ahead the governor says her goal this year is to make major investments in school buildings.
As far as the impending election goes, the governor says she believes she remains the best woman for the job.
©WLNE-TV / ABC6 2017