We talked to many of the local candidates running for public office in the upcoming 2020 election. We asked each of them the same set of questions, with the promise to print their answers only lightly edited for clarity. The following answers are from Scott Guthrie (D), running against incumbent George Nardone (R), for RI House District 28.
Motif: What are, in order, your top three priorities or issues if elected?
Time and time again we’re told that tax breaks for the wealthiest will trickle down to working families through job creation. The result has always been trickle up. Presently, hard-working people are shouldering the tax burden for top earners, and the richest seem content with that. It’s long overdue that the wealthiest contribute their fair share. A modest increase in taxes for that 1% must be looked at, particularly during these troubling times. Recent Federal tax cuts furthered the widening of tax classes to favor the richest of the rich, crushing the middle-class.
Tax credits to spur the economy
The Historic Mill Tax Credit allowed developers to rehabilitate vacant, blighted and crumbling mill buildings across the state. The result was the modernization of mostly non-usable structures into housing and mixed use. When occupied, local economies thrived and businesses grew.
Imagine a Manufacturing Mill Building Tax Credit. A credit used to modify, upgrade and make code-compliant the vast amount of shuttered mill buildings across this state. This would be a job creator, not only for the construction industry, but for businesses and entrepreneurs seeking offices, workshops or even factory space.
Civics, at one time, was mandatory to graduate from high school. For the last two decades it has been absent for the most part. Some communities offer civic education, but not in the latter years of high school curricula. It is patently clear with behavior we see and read in newscasts the lack of public courteousness and respect. Students want, and have actually filed suit in Federal Court, for civic education back in the classroom, ideally closer to their voting age. Government has an obligation to us, and we, in turn have an obligation to our country. Today that principle is absent.
Motif: After the election, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case with ramifications that could eliminate the Affordable Care Act, potentially reducing the high insured rate in Rhode Island. In a country without ACA protections, what should healthcare for Rhode Islanders look like?
SG: A single payer system. This Congress is ignoring its own past practice and ramming a Supreme Court Justice through, for one purpose. It’s infuriating that a political party will stop at nothing to invalidate healthcare measures to help millions of American citizens. As a cancer survivor, I feel for people with preexisting conditions and the struggles they will face. Each and every state will be tasked to make up the monetary difference at an unknown cost. Perhaps we should be the first of 38 states to pass/ratify a constitutional amendment guaranteeing health care as a right.
A single payer system, guaranteed, constitutionally, period
Motif: Do you think police departments are overfunded, and if so, how would you reallocate those resources?
SG: Police department funding is budgetary and varies according to size, population etc. Overfunded? I doubt they are. Law enforcement officers are constantly training, honing their skills for the increasing workload they face daily. Often times they are first to arrive at overdoses, administering life-saving Narcan, automobile and industrial accidents, medical emergencies, and fires on top of their daily law enforcement responsibilities. As a person, I wholly support law enforcement officers.
Motif: Should school funds be pooled and redistributed on a weighted scale to address statewide equity issues, or should districts continue to fund their own community schools? Are there school districts that should be combined?
SG: School districts should provide an education in their respective community. What needs to change is the funding method. The constant battle over the amount of state funding, basically through income taxes, must increase to at least 50% (see tax equity above), reducing the reliance on the onerous property tax. Students are the ones that suffer when sports and other popular activities are cut because of rising costs, and fear the loss of athletic and academic scholarships. Urban, struggling school districts would benefit the most if a fair funding method were to become a reality. Consolidation should be a last resort if necessary.
Motif: COVID most harshly impacted a lot of core industries in Rhode Island (eg, hospitality, restaurants, arts/entertainment). What can elected officials do to revitalize these industries and improve the lives of our poorest residents?
SG: The pandemic was mishandled from the get-go. Federal relief packages fell far short of what was initially needed, and they are bickering to this day, with no future support in sight to make the hospitality industry whole and provide relief to those displaced workers. Most of these employees work under completely different pay scale, relying on tips for income. Elected officials are stuck in a waiting game with Washington playing politics instead of addressing the needs of states trying to move forward.
Motif: Climate change is a very real threat in Rhode Island — we are in close proximity to the ocean and broke temperature and drought records this year. If elected, what steps would you take to protect the environment?
SG: I fully support renewable energy projects, many of which are in my community. We have both wind and solar arrays in place in rural areas, which allows property owners the ability to keep their property instead of losing it to residential development. As a state we should incentivize solar use on buildings in the urban sector in an effort to control carbon emissions. Additionally, my community has 11 elevations on both branches of the Pawtuxet River. Development of water-driven energy production was always a dream of mine. This state, with its many waterways used during the industrial revolution could benefit from this in the future as well.