PBN: Last April, you were trailing Brendan Doherty in the polls by 15 percentage points and now (Oct. 10) you are ahead of him by 6 points. What happened?
CICILLINE: For the last several months of this campaign, what I have been doing is talking to people about my work and stuff I have been doing and trying to reinforce that this election has real consequences. We are fighting to build an economy that will last by investing in things that grow the middle class in America and those are some of the same strategies that will strengthen and grow the middle class of Rhode Island. Republicans in Washington have a different economic theory and I think it is a theory most Rhode Islanders don't accept. It is a theory that if we provide enough tax cuts to the very top that it will trickle down and create jobs. I don't think that works. What we need to create jobs are a vibrant, growing middle class and I think the president's approach to strengthen the middle class is the right approach.
PBN: So this campaign has become more about the two political parties and their national platforms than the individual candidates?
CICILLINE: I think people realize the decision they make will send someone to Washington who will both stand with the president and stand with a set of policies that protects and strengthens the middle class and that everyone pays their fair share of taxes. Or a stand with a party that has made it clear they stand for tax cuts for people at the top, subsidies for big oil, tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas. We are in a fight for control of Congress and whoever is in control sets the agenda for the next two years.
PBN: You have said previously you regret how you described Providence's fiscal condition in the last campaign. If you had it to do over again, how should you have described the city's finances when you left office?
CICILLINE: I would have described it, if I look back now, I would say improved, very improved, but threatened. Improved because of the work we did in the eight years and what I inherited when I took office and the progress we made, but the threat of the state cuts and impact of those cuts on the horizon. When I took office, I inherited a city with a $59 million budget gap, a $216 million structural deficit, a city government that had lost the confidence of the city and had been described as an ongoing criminal enterprise by two federal courts. It had contracts for city employees that did not include sharing of health care costs, a pension system that was not properly funded, a tax base was shrinking and a police force that had evidence of people buying jobs and buying promotions. We eliminated the deficit, built up our reserves and brought great reforms to the police department – had the lowest crime rate in 30 years – negotiated a union contract where every single employee shared in health care costs. We funded the pension system at the proper levels, which hadn't been done in a very long time. And so I am very proud of the work I got done. In the last few years the state, [Gov. Don Carcieri] proposed some pretty devastating cuts to cities and towns – $41 million for the city. We had to decide how to absorb that. At a time when the city was being battered by a pretty deep recession, we decided along with the City Council not to raise taxes. A lot of communities, when they had those cuts, absorbed [them] by raising property taxes or restoring the car tax. So we had to make some additional cuts and had to use some of our reserves and we got through the year without raising taxes with the hope that the recession would end more quickly, the state would restore some of the cuts or accelerate the school funding formula. Those things didn't happen and the new mayor coming in had to do what I would have had to do and make more cuts.
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