Foulkes jabs Gorbea during Rotary Club lunch

Posted 8/2/22

Democratic candidate for governor, Helena Foulkes, was on the offensive last Thursday as she questioned a policy proposal by a competing candidate, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea who have said she …

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Foulkes jabs Gorbea during Rotary Club lunch


Democratic candidate for governor, Helena Foulkes, was on the offensive last Thursday as she questioned a policy proposal by a competing candidate, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea who have said she would raise corporate and institutional taxes.

Without naming names, Foulkes challenged the proposal by, claiming that small businesses would feel a burden if the policy was enacted.

“I think going into a potential recession the last thing our businesses need is to be hit with higher taxes,” said Foulkes, who affirmed that money should be going back into the pockets of people.

Asked how she would combat inflation, Foulkes cited the impact on individuals and businesses, pointing out she differs with Gorbea’s proposal to cut the 34 cent gas tax. She said oil companies would be the ones to profit most rather than consumers, considering they would be more likely to raise prices with the absence of a gas tax.

Instead, Foulkes recommended putting money back into the pockets of people who need it most.

“We had a $900 million surplus as a state this last year and one of the things I was proposing is that we give $500 back to everyone who's making $100,000 or less,” she said.

Foulkes, 58, a cancer survivor and mother of four, is a lifelong Rhode Islander who worked at CVS for 25 years where she served as the President of CVS Pharmacy and the Executive Vice President of CVS Health. During her time at the company managed a budget of over $80 billion.

Fresh from the Thursday endorsements of Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, Senate Majority Whip Maryelle Goodwin and former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Foulkes joined members of the Warwick Rotary Club during a visit to their weekly meeting at Chelo’s on Post Road and answered questions. In opening remarks, Foulkes focused on education, the economy, housing and as a newcomer to politics what she could bri8ng to the job.

Looking to capitalize on her corporate experience, Foulkes handled questions about bureaucracy and how bring meaningful change and infuse new energy.

Foulkes referenced how during her time at CVS, she had 200,000 people that reported to her, compared to 13,000 who report to the governor. She also used her experience of discontinuing cigarette sales at CVS — a source of $2 billion in yearly revenue for the company to show she could foster action.

“I'd been there for 22 years. We always talked about it being inconsistent with our mission,” said Foulkes, as she addressed the audience without a microphone while she stood by a table where two of her aides and members of the club were seated.

Education and the economy are two issues she believes are intertwined, and can be major benefits to the state if improved upon. Returning students to learning levels prior to the COVID-19 pandemic is one of her goals, which she would do by increasing access to before and after school care programs, increasing mental health and behavioral support for public schools and establishing universal K-3 teaching assistants — creating over 600 new teaching assistant positions.

Foulkes also outlined proposals to expand the Rhode Island Promise scholarships from two years to four years, in exchange that the students commit to teaching at least four years in the state. The $10 million expansion of the program over four years could fund up to 400 new teaching positions. Funds for these plans would be drawn from the $1.2 billion Rhode Island received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in 2021 according to her campaign website.

Foulkes’ plans for education also involve making structural improvements to schools throughout the state to appeal to families moving into the area. She spoke about how many of her employees that she recruited to work for her at CVS chose to live in Massachusetts because of their public schools.

“We lost out on all the revenue associated with that and I think that’s a big opportunity for us,” said Foulkes. “I’ve always believed in leading into strengths.”

One of these strengths includes the more than 400 miles of Rhode Island coastline. Foulkes believes that tapping into the blue economy is a vital asset for the state and something that is achievable considering Rhode Island is the home to the first offshore wind farm in the country. Besides investing in blue economy infrastructure, her plan seeks to expand funding for local university research, including the study of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. These initiatives would be funded by a $250 billion bond initiative.

Laura Jaworski, executive director of House of Hope, a nonprofit organization based in Warwick committed to providing safe, stable and affordable housing attended the meeting and pressed Foulkes on the issues surrounding housing insecurity and homelessness that have been amplified by COVID-19.

“We right now are facing an unprecedented number of Rhode Islanders that are unsheltered,” said Jaworski, who described the situation as “immediate and urgent.”

Jaworski also mentioned her concern that the needs to develop resources like workforce housing to counter the shortages may not be met with the proper attention, not only with funding, but that they could be directed toward the “deserving poor” rather than those who are experiencing chronic homelessness.

Foulkes explained that the state received $225 million courtesy of ARPA to be used for emergency rental and homeowner assistance. As of April, there was still $100 million remaining that Foulkes said she would devote towards housing insecurity. She also emphasized how she would lean on others familiar with the issue, like Jaworski, to understand what more needs to be done.

Foulkes ranks third in the race for the Democratic nomination according to a poll released in June from Suffolk University and The Boston Globe of 800 likely Rhode Island voters found 24.08 percent of respondents would vote for Gorbea, compared to 20.11percent for Gov. Dan McKee and 16.43 percent for Foulkes. Also seeking the Democratic nomination are: Matt Brown and Luis Daniel Munoz who received 5.3 percent and 1.42 percent respectively.

Foulkes has attracted more attention in the past few weeks through television commercials, and plans to maintain her presence on the air and on the ground.

“I do believe that whichever one of us wins this primary is most likely going to be the next governor,” she said.

The primary election will take place on Sept. 13.

Foulkes, Rotary Club lunch


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