by Mark Curtis, ABC6 Chief Political Reporter
Rhode Island's struggling economy...was the hot topic at the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce annual legislative luncheon. Over 600 business leaders joined 80 plus lawmakers. One promise: a joint business–government task force to work on the economy.
"This is the hard stuff that we are talking now. And it's the necessary stuff. And it's what we need to do to move Rhode Island forward, " said Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed (D) Rhode Island.
But the big announcement at the luncheon, was that Twin River Casino is hiring 600 more employees.
ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis said, "If there's been one criticism of the Rhode Island General Assembly this year it's been this: that too much time has been spent on social issues and not enough on the economy."
Same–sex marriage has dominated the House agenda in the first month of session. And now the house is looking at legalizing marijuana.
State Sen. Dawson Hodgson (R) Rhode Island said, "Frankly we should have been prepared to act on day one with 2 or 3 meaningful steps to bring forward some progress on the economy."
But House Speaker Gordon Fox says lawmakers can multitask, and that there will be more talks on the economy. He even conceded the House may look at reducing the Rhode Island sales tax if Massachusetts lawmakers cut theirs.
"From my house I can drive 15 minutes and I am in Massachusetts. So we haven't done any analysis, but when Governor Patrick put that out there, we did take notice," said Fox.
The Chamber of Commerce crowd applauded efforts to cut corporate taxes and business regulations.