Mike Morin Challenges Rep. Lisa Baldelli-Hunt For Dist. 49 Seat
Challenger says local legislators should be more involved in the city's affairs.
Michael Morin, Woonsocket native, president of the firefighter's union, son of former WHS principal George Morin and Ann Morin, said Rep. Lisa Baldelli-Hunt's (D-Dist. 49) recent votes have been out of touch with the city's best interests.
In fact, Morin said, many of the city's state representatives seem distant during Woonsocket's crisis. "They should be involved in what's going on in the city and they're not," he said.
But Morin, a firefighter since 1987, said he decided to run against Baldelli-Hunt after a recent vote tabling a measure to reverse a 2006 tax cut for people making more than $250,000. "I think the straw was her flip-flopping on the tax equity bill," Morin said.
The bill, H-7729, was included as an amendment to the budget during this year's legislative session. It would have restored the 2006 tax rate on people making more than $250,000 per year. Baldelli-Hunt is listed as a sponsor of the bill at RITE (Rhode Island Tax Equity.com). But her vote helped table the measure, effectively killing it, as did the vote of Jon Brien (D-Dist. 50) and another 51 representatives, according to the House Journal from June 7.
The measure reportedly would have added $131 million to the state's coffers. "Just imagine if Woonsocket could have gotten $5 million of that money," Morin said.
Morin added he thought Baldelli-Hunt's vote to table the bill, preserving current tax rates on people with incomes greater than $250,000, wasn't in touch with someone representing a city with, according to the US Census, a median income of $38,625. Though one school of thought says that giving higher-income people tax breaks helps the economy, Morin said there's no evidence it's helped RI since 2006. "In my opinion, all it's done is given the rich bigger yachts and bigger homes," he said.
Morin also sets himself apart from Hunt in their positions on taking the city into bankruptcy as a means to solve the city's $7 milllion deficit. "I want to do everything I can to prevent us from going into bankruptcy," Morin said, "There seems to be this sentiment out there that bankruptcy has worked out so well for Central Falls," and that it is a way to avoid tax increases.
In fact, bankruptcy did not save Central Falls from higher taxes, a point former Central Falls receiver Robert G. Flanders made to the Woonsocket Taxpayers Coalition in April. "It would be a mistake to think that going to state intervention in any of the forms I've mentioned, including a receivership, would necessarily provide relief from taxes," Flanders cautioned. In Central Falls, taxes hadn't risen very much in many years, so he had to impose a supplemental tax of 19 percent, and plan out 5 years of 4 percent increases from there.
Morin said another reversal of Baldelli-Hunt's, her last-minute stand against the supplemental tax bill, ignores Flanders' advice and the example of Central Falls. "I think it's disengenuous on her part, because if you go into bankruptcy, there's going to be a tax increase." Morin said.
Morin said he's not a fan of increasing taxes himself, but he'd rather the city handled it on its own if it has to happen. "We wouldn't be facing as big of a tax increase, or even bankruptcy, if our legislators were fighting harder for us, (for state aid)" Morin said, "The local delegation needs to be held accountable for their actions, and lack of action. This all happened on their watch."
Morin said he doesn't want to see anyone lose their house, and that he would be interested in a sliding rate to protect the city's most vulnerable homeowners, but he'd have to see such a plan in writing.
Budget Commission Chairman Bill Sequino has stated the city's deficit can't be solved without concessions from local unions. Morin, president of the firefighters' union, Local #732, IAFF, said he and the union have always been willing to negotiate in the best interests of the city. Morin said the firefighters union's concessions during their last negotiations saved the city about $7 million.
Morin, also an assistant deputy state fire marshal for the Woonsocket Fire Department, said the reason he loves being a firefighter is the ability to help others, often at a time in their lives when they most need that help. "You can see it in people's faces," Morin said. He said now he wants to help Woonsocket out of its current crisis. "I love this city and I want to see it recover," Morin said.
Baldelli-Hunt faces two challengers in the Sept.11 primary: Morin and Stuart Gitlow of 641 Harris Ave. Whoever wins that contest will face Independent candidate Michael E. Moniz of 429 East School St. for the seat Nov. 6.