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Carcieri's Second-Term Crash Course

The aforementioned Jones offers a deep look at the second-term hurdles facing Carcieri, who took the state by storm as a political newcomer in 2002.

Carcieri’s first headache has been the state budget. It’s a mess, thanks to the ever-increasing cost of government, combined with the loss of potential revenue because of tax cuts engineered by Carcieri and legislative Democrats.
 
In turn, the governor has endured months of bitter criticism from supporters of programs he wants to cut — pushing vulnerable young persons from state care at age 18 instead of 21, for example — tarnishing his public image as a good-natured grandfather.
 
Carcieri’s management skills are also being tested. The former banker and corporate CEO stormed into office in 2003 on the premise that, because of his real-world experience, he could put Rhode Island on a business-like footing and weed out government waste. But the headlines this spring have been about the opposite sort of stories: multi-million dollar overruns in revamping the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, and Senate hearings into whether the state pays too much for privately contracted workers.
 
Especially embarrassing has been the Providence Journal’s disclosure about the outsized premiums going to a private firm supplying workers for a Department of Transportation traffic monitoring center — including one typist whose work cost $102,000, something that Carcieri himself termed “outrageous.”

The gov remains upbeat, although even Bob Carl, a former top lieutenant to Governor Almond, calls him a polarizing figure:

. . . . the ever-optimistic governor says his first term got off to a good start in tackling them, and that progress will continue in the more than three years remaining in his last term. “Right now, we are poised at what I think is a transformational point,” he tells the Phoenix during a recent State House interview. He says Rhode Island is neck-and-neck with New Hampshire in job growth, school scores are up, and that Rhode Island’s national reputation is turning positive.
 
“There are always issues,” Carcieri says. “But it doesn’t lessen my enthusiasm one iota. It hasn’t lessened my drive. I’m more committed that I ever have been. I’m more of a believer than ever in terms of what I see happening in this state.”

This is not how some outside the State House see things, including Robert L. Carl Jr., the tough-talking administrative chief under Carcieri’s GOP predecessor, Lincoln C. Almond.
 
“I think the state is in big trouble, because we are not creating lots of new jobs, lots of new opportunities,” says Carl. “I don’t think we’ve made much progress.”
 
The former aide says the legislature — and many others in public life, himself included — may share some of the blame with Carcieri. However, Carl says, it’s happening “on his watch. If you run for office, part of the reality is you’re responsible if you win.”
 
Carl portrays Carcieri as talented, but divisive. “I think he’s probably the best politician I’ve seen in the State House in all my years,” says the former Almond lieutenant, who is now the CEO of the Homestead Group, which provides services to developmentally disabled persons. “He turns everything into a press event, and he’s effective in manipulating the press.”
 
But Carl faults Carcieri for creating low morale and a “dysfunctional” state government during his first term, a period in which labor leaders say the governor scapegoated unions and state workers.

Meanwhile, Brown's Darrell West says it's too early to count the governor out, and that although he's weakened in the legislature's eyes by his narrow victory last November, the budget woes facing the state make it very difficult for the General Assembly to gain much leverage.

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