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Mayor leads RI capital city out of financial peril

March 31, 2013 • Business


FILE – In this Oct. 24, 2011 file photo, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, center, listens to Occupy Providence protesters as they rally in a city park in downtown Providence, R.I. Taveras inherited bleak finances when he became mayor more than two years ago. But he walked the capital back from the brink of bankruptcy using measures that include spending cuts, higher taxes, school closures, and pension and benefits changes with the city’s unions. (AP Photo/Stew Milne, File)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Angel Taveras knew he’d be inheriting bleak finances when he became Providence mayor in January 2011, so he reached out to union leaders right after his election with a message meant to lay the groundwork for future concessions: I’m going to need your help.

It turned out he needed a lot more help than he thought. Taveras soon learned that Rhode Island’s capital was facing a worse-than-expected $110 million deficit that he called a “Category 5 fiscal hurricane” and warned could force a municipal bankruptcy.

A little more than halfway through his first term, the 42-year-old Democrat — a possible candidate for governor in 2014 — has walked the city back from the brink in a state that has struggled for years with one of the highest U.S. unemployment rates.

He cut spending across nearly every city department, closed schools, shaved 200 workers off the city payroll, and raised taxes and fees. He extracted millions more in voluntary payments from the city’s tax-exempt organizations, including Brown University and its hospital systems. And he negotiated settlements with unions and retirees over an unpopular 10-year pension freeze and Login to read more

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