2012 in Review: Rhode Island edition

The Ocean State had its ups and downs in 2012. Here are some standout stories from across RI.

Deficit Distress: 

Batman and Robin

Providence has a lot to be thankful for in the new year. For a few months last year, it didn’t seem that the city would make it to 2013. In March Mayor Angel Taveras first announced the city faced the possibility of bankruptcy and suggested that a “category five” fiscal crisis was imminent. Taveras battled a $110 million deficit throughout the year, calling on the city’s non-profit institutions to increase their PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes) contributions. The University felt the pressure — as students, faculty and city residents called on former president Simmons to step up to the Mayor’s demands — to finalize negotiations with Taveras and in May, Simmons and Taveras jointly announced an agreement under which the University promised to contribute an additional $31.5 million to the city over the next eleven years. The city’s other universities, colleges, and hospitals have also stepped up to help close the deficit and facilitate some fiscal stability. Taveras is set to present the city’s budget for the next fiscal year on Jan. 29 during the annual “State of the City” address.

38 Studios:

Rhode Island made national headlines last year when 38 Studios, a video-game production firm operating out of RI, was forced to file for bankruptcy after literally running out of money. As legislators struggled to establish a “business-friendly” reputation for the state, coverage of the 38 Studios saga worked against them in every way.  To make things worse, the state had doled out a $75 million loan to the company to help fund development of the company’s highly anticipated release (that never was) entitled Project Copernicus, the pet project of founder and CEO and former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling. After the studio failed to make its payments to the Rhode Island Economic Development Commission, the agency fell under scrutiny and Director Keith Stokes. Reports now suggest that that state’s taxpayers are possibly on the hook for over $100 million stemming from the initial loan. Speaker of the House Gordon Fox has announced intentions to hold hearings to look into the 38 Studios scandal — as the loan stemmed from legislation passed in the GA — but no further details have yet been announced.

State Politics: an election year roundup:

Democrats dominated in this year’s state races, as incumbents Rep. David Cicilline, Rep. Jim Langevin, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse all maintained their seats in Congress. Despite tough races, none of the Republican candidates were able to shift public opinion in their favor. But all of the candidates focused on improving the Ocean State’s economic climate and made suggestions for how legislators can attract jobs for the middle class. RI’s unemployment rate has been a point of contention within state politics since the recession hit the state hard back in 2008. The most recent statistics released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics place RI in a tie with Nevada as the states with the highest percentage of unemployment in the US.

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