Thursday, March 08, 2007

Rhode Island legislature speaking out against war

(Rhode Island State Rep. Eileen Naughton, D-Warwick, and Sen. Rhoda Perry, D-Providence, at a press conference yesterday to promote resolutions against the troop surge in Iraq.)

Yesterday, a number of state legislators in Rhode Island held a press conference to promote resolutions they have introduced in the General Assembly in opposition to the troop surge and calling for an speedier process to end the war. You can read coverage of it in the Providence Journal or Pawtucket Times.

State Rep. Betsy Dennigan of East Providence brushed off the inevitable objections that the General Assembly should not be debating the war in Iraq by pointing out that state legislators have a role in our democracy of making their voices heard on important issues. She said that legislators, and all citizens, "should never be afraid to speak up" on questions that are so important.

I submitted written testimony yesterday to the House Committee on Constituent Services in support of three different resolutions, and I thought I'd share it here:

Dear Members of the House Committee on Constituent Services,

I have come before you today to testify on behalf of Ocean State Action in favor of House Bills 5195, 5222, and 5340. Ocean State Action believes that the Rhode Island General Assembly should send a strong message to our Congressional delegation and President Bush, on behalf of the people you represent, that Rhode Islanders oppose the decision to escalate the War in Iraq. We also support the recommendation specifically in House Bill 5340 that the Congress to take steps to allow the redeployment of troops out of Iraq to begin as soon as possible.

Ocean State Action is a coalition of fourteen progressive labor unions, community organizations, and professional associations committed to fighting together for social and economic justice. We believe that the War in Iraq is deeply wrong; that it has not and will not make Rhode Islanders more secure, and may make us less secure; and that the low- and moderate-income Rhode Island families who we advocate for and fight with have made the steepest sacrifices for this war over the last four years – in terms of the lives lost, the injuries sustained, and the budget cuts enacted to fund the war. More than eighty Rhode Islanders have been wounded in this war, and eleven have given their lives.

Because we spend much of our time here at the State House advocating for a fair state budget that meets the needs of all Rhode Islanders, it is important to mention the severe economic toll that this war has taken on our state – and the toll it will take so long as it is allowed to continue. Roughly 30 percent of our state’s budget comes from federal dollars.

A report released in February by the non-partisan National Priorities Project says Rhode Islanders will have paid $1.8 billion in taxes for the war through the current fiscal year if Congress grants the President’s request for additional war funding. At a time when we are working to protect our state’s health insurance coverage for low-income people through RIte Care and Medicaid from federal cuts, the cost Rhode Islanders have paid for the war would have been enough to provide public health care for more than 600,000 Rhode Islanders over the last four years.

Just as we urge you to take into account Rhode Islanders’ priorities when you pass this year’s state budget, we believe that the US Congress must look at our nation’s priorities – and at the sacrifices that we are all making in terms of budget cuts in order to fund a war that we do not believe is right. Even though our entire federal delegation have already taken the first steps to oppose the escalation of this war, it is imperative that you make your voices heard on behalf of all of us and encourage them to go further to begin ending the war. The stakes for all of us are simply too high.

Thank you.

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