Community advocates, legislators call for ‘justice budget’

The state is currently looking at a budget deficit that is hundreds of millions of dollars, which means cuts are inevitable.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – With still no state budget cemented for the next fiscal year, some Rhode Island legislators and community activists are calling on the general assembly to think about passing a ‘justice budget’ to keep cuts to social programs off the table.

Dozens gathered at the state house Tuesday afternoon to call on the legislature to focus on
issues that affect the most vulnerable in the state, which have been exacerbated by the
pandemic.

They say they want the budget to focus on things like affordable housing, criminal justice reform, and education.

“This is about how you live your life. Oppression because of nationality. Oppression because of race. Oppression because of where you are on the social stratification,” said Representative John Lombardi.  “These are things that we will not tolerate.”

The state is currently looking at a budget deficit that is hundreds of millions of dollars, which means cuts are inevitable.

The message Tuesday was lawmakers should spend money, not cut, to reinvest in communities that need it most.

“‘There is no money,’ is not a suitable answer. ‘We cannot afford it,’ is a response that ignores the roles that leaders have played in strategically cutting breaks to the wealthy and well connected at the expense of the working class people,” said Senate Democrat Nominee Tiara Mack.

Some of the suggestions coming out of Tuesday’s rally: raise taxes on the richest Rhode Islanders, a $15 minimum wage, and cuts to police and prison budgets.

“We must pass a justice budget and set an example for the whole country of what it means to put our policy where our mouth is and put hope back into the homes of everyone in our state,” said Mack.

Some of the proposed reductions from the governor’s office include cutting funding to a program that helps some of the state’s most distressed cities and towns like Providence and Pawtucket.

“We’ve lost the hospital, we’ve lost the stadium, our schools are crumbling, our streets need to be repaved, and I know that we’re trying to do the best that we can with the little bit that we have, but we’re tired!” said Representative Karen Alzate.

Putting a budget together is a challenge at this point since the state still does not know how much federal funding it’ll be getting, if and when there is a next stimulus bill.

We reached out to the governor’s office for comment on whether or not any of these proposals would be feasible, but did not hear back.

 

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Rhode Island