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RI's budgetary headache

The bill has come due for about a decade in which state spending has grown at more than twice the rate of inflation. While Governor Carcieri and the General Assembly have their work cut out in trying to make sense of Rhode Island's structural deficit, it's curious that the governor did not budget any more money for drug treatment. After all, raising the emphasis on treatment for non-violent drug offenders, rather than just incarcerating them, offers the promise of savings and enhanced public safety.

Steve Costantino, chairman of the House Finance Committee, and his deputy, Representative Paul Crowley, joined Steve Aveson and myself this morning for a taping of WPRI-WNAC's Newsmakers (the show airs Sunday at 5:30 am on Channel 12 and at 10 am on Fox 64). Although time did not allow for discussion of the treatment issue, Costantino told me off-camera that he will talk with House Majority Leader Gordon Fox about prospects for adding treatment money to the budget.

The lawmakers reacted cooly to the governor's proposal to save money through furloughs for state workers, although Crowley indicated receptivity to a statewide teachers' contract and similar efforts to cut costs.

Among other things, Crowley cited as "depressing" a federal prosecutor's statement earlier this week that seven other Rhode Island politicians are under investigation in the State House influence-peddling probe. The two lawmakers said they were not aware of the targets of the investigation, beyond what has been reported, and expressed concern that honest lawmakers could be unfairly besmirched in the court of public opinion.

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