Fogarty brings dogged determination to campaign for governor
By M.L. Johnson, Associated Press Writer August 5, 2006
PROVIDENCE, R.I. --Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty has earned a reputation as a campaign workhorse as he takes on a popular incumbent in the race for governor.
He has attended scores of ethnic festivals and open houses since declaring his candidacy for governor in March. Fogarty delivers citations at parties for people's 100th birthdays, and on some weekends, he's been known to stop at senior centers and picnics between parades.
"Two parades a day. That's my limit," he jokes.
Democratic Party Chairman Bill Lynch describes Fogarty as the hardest working politician in Rhode Island. He has to be. Fogarty must persuade Rhode Island voters to choose him even though he differs with his opponent, Republican Gov. Don Carcieri, on few issues.
Both want lower property taxes, more jobs, a balanced state budget, affordable health care and better education. The difference, Fogarty says, is that he can accomplish those goals when Carcieri has not.
"Under Gov. Carcieri, we've had a lot of promises made, but there's been very little results delivered," he said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Fogarty ticked off the state's problems: Budget shortfalls, high property taxes and a growing number of Rhode Islanders without health insurance.
"We can do better, and we really do need to do better," he said.
He pointed to this year's state budget as an example. Faced with a potential $300 million shortfall, Carcieri proposed cuts to social services such as the state's health insurance program for the poor. He also proposed a 25 percent reduction in legislative grants that help pay for programs such as Meals on Wheels.
Fogarty acknowledged that cuts had to be made, but called those choices shortsighted.
"Meals on Wheels may be the only lifeline somebody has to stay at home," he said. "It may be the difference between them being able to stay home and be independent and having to go into a nursing home, which would be very costly to all of us as taxpayers."
Instead, he said he would have opposed an alternative flat income tax passed by the Democrat-dominated General Assembly that will largely benefit the state's wealthiest residents and a $1 million tax credit for corporate donations to private schools.
The tax credit wasn't needed because donations to private, nonprofit schools are already tax deductible, Fogarty said.
He described the flat tax as something the state can ill afford. State officials project the tax will cost the state $7 million in the first year, and $73 million annually in five years.
Carcieri has said the flat tax will help Rhode Island compete with Massachusetts in attracting high-income entrepreneurs and executives. But Fogarty said there's no proof those people will create jobs for other Rhode Islanders. He said he would have vetoed the flat tax.
"It doesn't make sense to me to say we're going to relieve the tax burden on the state and make us more competitive, when we're only focusing on a narrow group of folks," he said.
Instead, Fogarty said the state should work to reduce municipal property taxes or provide an income tax cut for all residents.
Carcieri has touted a reduction in the car tax as a middle class tax break, but Fogarty said it and other small breaks passed under Carcieri don't make a big difference.
"Maybe 70-some dollars in Providence down to $9 on Block Island," he said of the car tax. "I believe the priorities in this case were clearly wrong," he added.
Fogarty differs from Carcieri on other issues as well. He would join other New England states in a pact calling for reduced emissions from power plants. He would focus his job-creation efforts on existing small businesses rather than try to lure large corporations from out of state. He supports civil unions -- but like Carcieri opposes gay marriage.
Maureen Moakley, a political science professor at the University of Rhode Island, describes Fogarty as a typical Democrat: He supports unions, social services and abortion rights.
Fogarty grew up around government and has spent his life in it. His father was a state senator, and his uncle, John Fogarty, represented Rhode Island in Congress. Fogarty served eight years in the state Senate before being elected lieutenant governor in 1998.
He started his career by working on policy under Gov. Joseph Garrahy and Lt. Gov. Roger Begin. He approaches that in the same dogged way that he campaigns. Give him a topic such as health care, and he will list his bills -- one strengthened state regulation of nursing homes, another expanded the state's prescription drug program for seniors.
This year, Fogarty pushed through a law that makes public officials, lobbyists and state contractors provide more detailed information about their income, campaign contributions and political activities. Carcieri criticized it for failing to include the General Assembly in a provision requiring the state officials to disclose how much money they get from various sources of income.
"There are always ways we can improve upon it," Fogarty responded. "But you don't say, 'Unless I can get the system perfect, I'm not going to do anything.' Because then no one would ever get anything done."
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