By Denise Perreault
PBN Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE â€“ The state should adopt into law provisions for establishment of a health care exchange and, in another matter, must not ignore the threat of casinos in nearby Massachusetts, according to two committees that prepared recommendations for the General Assembly Friday morning at the U.S. Small Business Administration Rhode Island Economic Summit.
About 150 small business owners and advocates attended the six-hour summit at the Johnson & Wales Culinary Archives and Museum, including state officials and lawmakers.
Six committees host sessions on specialized topics, such as health care and taxes, complemented by plenary sessions that all attend. Among those addressing the gathering was Mark S. Hayward, director of the SBA regional office in Providence.
Ted Almon, president and CEO of Claflin Company in Warwick, who chaired the 11-member health care standing committee, said his group for the second year in a row is urging the legislature to formally incorporate into state law the terms of Gov. Lincoln D. Chafeeâ€™s executive order for creation of a health care exchange.
The executive order remains in effect only as long as Chafee is in office, Almon noted, and committee members decided it is important that the health care exchange be made part of state law to protect its future existence.
Grafton â€śCapâ€ť Willey IV, managing director of the CBIZ Tofias and Mayer Hoffman McCann P.C. accounting firm and a longtime small business supporter, said his seven-member committee on taxes and the budget came to the consensus that the state cannot ignore the threat to operating revenue posed by tentative plans for casinos in the New Bedford or Foxboro areas.
â€śThe state has to respond to that threat,â€ť he told Providence Business News during a break in the summit. His committee did not specify what that response should be, but Willey said the â€ślogicalâ€ť recommendation would be to allow table games at both Twin River Casino and Newport Grand Slots.
Attending the tax and budget session was Paul L. Dion, chief of the office of revenue analysis of the state Department of Revenue, who presented figures on the gambling revenue the state receives, approximately $285.2 million from Twin River and $29.5 million from Newport Grand in the current fiscal year. In general, gambling revenue accounts for about $300 million of the stateâ€™s annual $7.7 billion operating budget.
The summit results in preparation of a legislative package by participants for introduction to the General Assembly in the weeks ahead.