Raimondo Discusses Trump, Clinton And Rhode Islanders' Economic Jitters

Nov 15, 2016

Raimondo speaking with reporters.
Credit Ian Donnis / RIPR

Governor Gina Raimondo said she's not sure what to expect from the administration of President-elect Donald Trump, although she's concerned about the possible repeal of Obamacare, likes Trump's plan to boost federal infrastructure spending, and vows that Rhode Island will protect the civil rights of its citizens.

While it's difficult to predict how Trump will govern, Raimondo said Tuesday, during one of her occasional informal news conferences with reporters, his election has left many Rhode Islanders upset.

"I've spent a lot of time in the last week hugging people and reassuring people, from my own staff to my kids to people at church, people on the train to go to New York last week," the governor said. "People came up to me in the train station, wanting a hug, wanting to know, 'Governor, is this going to be okay?' .... And I give them a hug and I say, 'Yes, it's going to be okay,' and I believe that. And the people of Rhode Island, we will protect them. Our values aren't changing, and we're going to make sure that people are safe in Rhode Island." 

Raimondo said her top concerns about the incoming Trump administration include the potential repeal of Obamacare since, she said, that would erode healthcare coverage in Rhode Island. The governor said she's also concerned that tax cuts could diminish federal aid to states.

But Raimondo, a Democrat who won election in 2014, is more bullish about the Republican president elect's vow to ramp up federal infrastructure spending.

"The one thing he has said which I'm going to hold him accountable for is this trillion-dollar infrastructure investment," she said. "It remains to be seen where we'll get the money for that, and how it'll be distributed, but we could certainly use that money for airports, money for trains -- train stations and train tracks -- money for roads and bridges, money for wi-fi. I hope he's going to stay true to that commitment."

Speaking with reporters in the cafeteria of the state Department of Administration building on Smith Hill, Raimondo offered this response when asked why Hillary Clinton lost to Trump last week: "I'm not sure I have any better analysis than what you've been reading for the past week," she said. "Look, my own view, and you can see this in the way I govern and the way I campaigned: I believe the average person in Rhode Island and probably in America is worried about their future. There's been a lot of talk about anger. I'm not sure it's anger, so much as it is nervousness, concern, anxiety about job security -- and I see that every day when I'm out and about talking to people."

Clinton "I guess, wasn't convincing to people that she was going to be the president to get them back to work," Raimondo said.

The governor said she remains focused on trying to improve Rhode Island's economy, even as Trump's almost 40 percent showing in Rhode Island, which included wins in a number of previously Democratic towns, underscored a level of dissatisfaction. She said the state has "new momentum" and that thousands of jobs have been created over the past two years.

Raimondo said she's not concerned by Rhode Islanders questioning whether her administration has lived up to expectations, in part due to the troubled rollout this year of the state's new tourism campaign and the $364 million IT system for administering human-service benefits.

"Largely, everyone who has stood behind my platform got re-elected," she said, noting how lawmakers who supported the controversial truck toll program included in RhodeWorks won their races last week. "I just think we just got to keep pushing, and to the extent Rhode Islanders want more, I agree, I'm with them, I want more, too .... The economy here has been in neutral for a long time, and in decline for a long time, so obviously it's unrealistic to think that after two years we'd wake up and everything would be perfect. I think we've made clear measurable progress by every metric and there's just an awful lot more to do."

Raimondo said she stands by the state's decision to move ahead with the United Health Infrastructure Project, despite ongoing problems. She said the end-result will be an improved system that offers better service to Rhode Islanders.

The governor said Deloitte, the contractor responsible for UHIP, has been highly responsive to the state, particularly in contrast to Hewlett Packard Enterprise. HPE and the state are in court over the status of a long-delayed new computer system for the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Raimondo said HPE owes Rhode Island $1 million and that if the company hasn't paid the amount by 5 pm Tuesday, the state will amend its court complaint.

With Massachusetts voters deciding last week to legalize medical marijuana, Raimondo said Rhode Island should not race to do the same. It's important, she said, to make sure that safeguards are in place to protect children.

Raimondo said the interest of a New York developer in making a residential complex on former I-195 land is a good sign for the state. She suggested a series of ownership changes at Baltimore-based Wexford Science & Technology may have contributed to a lack of visible action on the company's proposed life-science park for the I-195 District. Raimondo said she has not received any information indicating the project is unlikely to go ahead.