New State Senate President Ruggerio says appointment can’t hurt North Providence

New State Senate President Ruggerio says appointment can’t hurt North Providence

NORTH PROVIDENCE – The surprising announcement from M. Teresa Paiva Weed last week that she would resign as president of the Rhode Island Senate immediately put North Providence’s senior senator, Dominick Ruggerio, in the spotlight.

Ruggerio, (pictured), first elected to the Senate in 1984 after serving four years in the House of Representatives, was unanimously elected president of the Senate last Thursday after a bit of an internal power struggle.

Ruggerio, 68, told The Breeze this week he’s excited to take on this latest challenge. He was asked if his selection as president helps North Providence.

“I don’t suppose it hurts,” he said.

Regardless of what capacity he serves in, Ruggerio said he will continue to be an “advocate for the town” and work with town leaders to help its residents.

About 75 percent of Ruggerio’s Senate District 4 covers North Providence, while another 25 percent covers Providence.

Given the fact that Providence and North Providence have two of the highest car tax rates in the state, Ruggerio said one of his top priorities is reducing or eliminating the state’s car tax.

“I will support car tax relief,” he said.

He wouldn’t commit to House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s plan to eliminate the tax entirely, saying he hasn’t seen it, and also wouldn’t fully back Gov. Gina Raimondo’s plan to reduce it. He said the final outcome will depend on the state’s revenues.

“It’s all predicated on what we have for revenue,” he said.

Ruggerio said he also supports Raimondo’s plan to give away two years of free college to Rhode Island schools, though he said her proposal needs to be “fine-tuned a little.”

The May numbers on revenue will go a long way to determining what the state can accomplish this year, said Ruggerio.

The new Senate president noted that he was a big supporter of having internet companies pay sales tax, and he said he hopes other companies follow Amazon’s lead and start charging it in the state, bringing more fairness for “brick and mortar” stores and more revenue for Rhode Island.

Ruggerio said he remains interested in repealing the state’s tax on clothing, though he said he doesn’t plan to bring the idea back this year. He said he believes cutting out the tax could make the state more attractive to retailers and customers.

Just prior to last Thursday’s session, Senate Democrats conducted a caucus during which they elected Michael McCaffrey as their new majority leader, a post previously held by Ruggerio since 2011.

Maryellen Goodwin will continue serve as majority whip for the new leadership team. Goodwin, of District 1, Providence, has served as majority whip since 2011, and prior to that was chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Special Legislation.

“I have always been fortunate in the Senate to work alongside such a tremendously talented and dedicated group of public servants,” said Ruggerio in a statement after the vote. “We come from many different backgrounds and all regions of the state, and we each bring our own perspectives, but our goal is fundamentally the same: We want to make Rhode Island an even greater place to live and work.”

Ruggerio lives in North Providence. He is the father of two grown children and grandfather to three granddaughters.

Among the awards and honors Ruggerio has received for his public service is The Humane Society of the United States’ Humane Legislator Award. He has sponsored numerous bills to prevent cruelty to animals.

Ruggerio is the “dean,” or most senior member, of the Senate. He served in the House of Representatives from 1981 through 1984, when he was elected to the Senate.

The new Senate president has had some run-ins with the law over the years, including his infamous arrest in 1990 for shoplifting condoms from a CVS store, and his 2012 arrest for drunk driving. He wasn’t charged in either case.

“Look, I made some mistakes, and I’ve learned from them,” he said. “I’m not in the habit of looking back.”

Ruggerio pushed the legislation establishing the I-195 Redevelopment Commission to bring investment into the capital city, create good paying jobs and invigorate new industries, states a press release. “When progress at the city level had stalled,” he “fostered establishment of a tax stabilization agreement on the reclaimed I-195 land.”

Ruggerio said Monday that one of the state’s biggest assets is the space it has for development, and he believes leaders are ready to make it happen.

“The time is now for economic development in Rhode Island,” he said.

Ruggerio has sponsored initiatives to reform economic development in the state, including the requirement for long-term economic planning, as well as legislation to remove bureaucratic hurdles facing small businesses, states the release. He led the charge for a non-trade apprenticeship incentive bill enacted last year to foster use of this proven training technique in fields outside of the traditional trades, such as in IT, design, advanced manufacturing, and management.

After serving as president of the Senate for over eight years, Paiva Weed stepped down from the Senate’s top post last Thursday to accept a position as president of the Hospital Association of Rhode Island, and will soon be transitioning out of her Senate duties.

Ruggerio currently serves as administrator for the New England Labor Management Cooperation Trust, working the New England region, but said he plans to leave that job in May.

Comments

Organize and demand more, it's an open door now.

If I got off on stealing condoms and driving drunk I wouldn't look back either.
Wonder how he got off on not onw, but two cases that show continued bad judgement.

Wow , initially thought that was sarcasm ... but I think this guy is being literal. If so, we can can close the door on tax base growth, which may not be a bad thing because it will lead to city & town bankruptcy which will get Rhode Island's bloated cost structure down and eventually it's tax base up. Pittsburgh cuts its costs 50% when the steel industry left, that sounds like a good benchmark to me for Rhode Island government.