PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Republican gubernatorial candidate Allan Fung is calling for 10-year term limits in the General Assembly and stricter photo ID rules as part of a government reform package he rolled out Thursday.
In a news release, Fung’s campaign declared that the proposals show he is “ready to bulldoze Smith Hill.” His other ideas include creating an inspector general’s office to root out waste and fraud; banning candidates from running for office if they don’t pay campaign fines; and giving the governor a line-item veto.
“Years of shenanigans have led Rhode Islanders to have many reasons to be cynical,” Fung said in a statement. “It’s time to restore faith and confidence in Rhode Island government, and these measures are designed to attack the problem from three angles.”
Fung is the second candidate in as many days to say Rhode Island needs an inspector general, joining his GOP rival Patricia Morgan, who put forward the same proposal Wednesday. Reformers in the state, particularly on the right, have long said such an office would more than pay for itself by rooting out inefficiencies and corruption. But Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello has argued it would just add more government bureaucracy.
Asked whether the governor supports adding an inspector general, Raimondo spokesman Josh Block said she “is open to examining the concept more closely.”
Rhode Island has term limits for the governor and other statewide officeholders, who can only serve two four-year terms. But it has never embraced them for state lawmakers, and some incumbents in the General Assembly have now held their seats since the 1980s. Fung said they should be limited to five two-year terms, or a maximum of 10 years, in any one office.
“It’s hard to innovate and capitalize on our creative state if we have the same individuals in the same positions on Smith Hill for 20 or 30 years,” Fung argued.
Fung said he wants to change the requirements of the state’s cash welfare program, Rhode Island Works, which as of last year provided 4,673 families with average checks of up to $554 a month. Rhode Island’s program has historically had one of the lowest work-participation rates in the country compared with other states.
Fung argued the current rules are too lenient because they allow “job searching” to count toward meeting the 20-hour-a-week work requirement. He said he would require any healthy adult ages 18 to 59 who enrolls in Rhode Island Works to either have a job, seek training, or perform community service. He said exemptions would be offered to the sick and parents of young or chronically ill children.
“We want to give able-bodied adults who have fallen upon some hard times a hand up, and I believe that Rhode Island is better when fully engaging their talents,” Fung said. He added that he would hold off on the changes until the problem-plagued Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) computer system is stable.
Fung offered two proposals involving stricter photo ID requirements. He said he wants to require a photo ID for EBT cards, “closely following the Massachusetts model,” and also for voters requesting an emergency ballot before an election.
The line-item veto, which advocates say would empower the governor by letting him or her zero out specific spending items without rejecting the entire state budget, has support across party lines. Republicans have long advanced the idea, and Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo has pushed it, too. Lawmakers are considering whether to put a line-item veto question, which would require a constitutional amendment, on the fall ballot.
Another Fung priority that Raimondo supports: barring candidates who owe Board of Elections fines from seeking office. Fung said politicians and committees currently owe the board more than $3.6 million. Common Cause Rhode Island has supported such a ban, while the Rhode Island ACLU has questioned it.
Democrats were quick to push back at Fung. David Ortiz, a spokesman for Raimondo’s campaign, sharply criticized the proposal to change Rhode Island Works.
“President Trump is making a big push to slash support for the most vulnerable people in America by expanding work requirements in the nation’s social safety net, and it’s no surprise Mayor Fung is making Trump’s proposal here in Rhode Island,” Ortiz said in a statement. “Mayor Fung won’t admit it but he’s a Trump candidate.”
Democratic Governors Association spokesman Jared Leopold added: “The irony of Mayor Fung, who cost Cranston taxpayers millions by running his police department ‘like a mafia,’ putting forward a ‘government reform’ plan is just too great.”
Fung previously rolled out his economic platform, highlighted by a pledge to reduce the sales tax to 5% by 2022, last month. He faces Morgan and businessman Giovanni Feroce in the Sept. 12 Republican primary.