by Anita Baffoni, WPRO News
LISTEN TO THE FULL CONVERSATION BELOW
In an exclusive, wide ranging interview, Governor Gina Raimondo sits comfortably on her office couch to discuss a wide range of topics with WPRO, including delayed tax refunds, 38 studios, a pitch to PayPal executives, tolls and her time at the State House.
It hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing during her two years as Governor and she recognizes that, especially with the botched tourism roll out that she says could have been avoided. Raimondo believes regardless of the problems with the tourism campaign thus far, it will work to boost the state’s tourism economy.
“I think the biggest lesson we’ve learned is that the team didn’t do a good enough job incorporating the public into the launch,” Raimondo said. “So we are owning the mistakes, we are making changes and we are very soon, in the next week or so, having an opportunity to have public help us make brand even better.”
The “Cooler & Warmer” slogan was ditched and there are no plans to replace it— instead she will be accepting input from Rhode Islanders to make the logo “their own” and help the tourism campaign as a whole.
Raimondo says she is doing all she can to bring businesses to Rhode Island, including pitching the Ocean State to PayPal Corporation after they cancelled plans to expand in North Carolina after those states approved laws that limit public services to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community.
During a recent phone call with PayPal executives, Raimondo told them “we have an edge in financial services,” and said the state is “in process with them [PayPal].” She is among several governors trying to lure the company to their state.
Rhode Island will not be issuing a travel ban to North Carolina and Mississippi like Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza did, Raimondo says, but supports the city’s decision to do so.
Instead, she said she called every company that has announced they want to leave North Carolina to persuade them to come to Rhode Island because “we are a progressive state” and “we do not discriminate.”
As far as taxes go, many Rhode Islanders are very anxious for their returns but Raimondo says additional new security measures being taken to avoid identity theft and fraud, causing the delay.
“It’s better to be safe than sorry,” she said.
New software is auditing each tax return as a safety precaution, she explained.
Speaking of wanting money returned, the Governor says “no one is sicker than me that we lost all that money,” referring to the $75 million in loans invested in the failed 38 Studios debacle. She says she’d prefer to continue settling with the parties involved to recover millions owed to the state.
Millions will also be spent on putting 14 toll gantries throughout the state as a way to generate revenue to fix Rhode Island’s crumbling roads and bridges. After the Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti alluded to WJAR-TV the possibly of using the old Sakkonet River Bridge toll gantry as a way to provoke a lawsuit, Raimondo says it is something they are looking into.
“It is something we are thinking about,” she says. “Certainly, you would want to put up one toll and not spend a lot of money to test it before putting up 30 gantries, so that is one of options we are considering.”
Many of Raimondo’s administration are from out-of-state and as a way to connect more with Rhode Islanders, she plans to continue interacting with residents to build a relationship.
“You can always do more,” she said. “I am starting even more and more to be out and about listening. It’s important for the people to see the governor I want people to know they can talk to me and I’m going to listen and we are going to take their feedback. I think you can’t do enough of it and I want to start to do even more of it.”