Achorn: Rhode Islanders may be "getting it"

The ProJo's Ed Achorn sees good news in the plummeting approval rating of Governor Carcieri:

It suggests that the public may be finally getting it: Rhode Island is in deep trouble, and it needs serious leadership now to steer its way out of a looming financial nightmare.

The Republican governor’s leadership, unfortunately, has been AWOL this year. He started off 2007 with an absurdly rosy State of the State address, and then submitted a budget that used one-time fixes and projected enormous out-year deficits — thus surrendering the moral high ground he might have occupied over the Democrat-run General Assembly.

When he finally talked about trimming his executive-branch workforce — seemingly, in a fit of pique when the Assembly promulgated a budget that failed to solve the long-term deficit problem — he did so without any apparent idea of the details: who would be cut, and why. Months later, he is reportedly still trying to figure out how to trim the state workforce.

That’s an important first step, of course, but it inevitably raises a question: If there were so many positions the state did not need, why did Mr. Carcieri wait until five years into his governorship — with massive deficits staring him in the face — to economize that way?

Just in case you think Achorn is starting to sound like Bill Lynch, the columnist has some fair criticism for State House Democrats as well.

Still, Carcieri -- who, in explaining his shrinking approval rating, has cited months of unflattering press about the budget and other matters -- shoud be a bit worried when he continues to face this rap from someone who would usually like to support him.

It doesn't help, of course, when Amgen is cutting hundreds of local jobs.

Achorn's close echoes one of my recent posts about the stakes facing Carcieri as he moves deeper into his second term:

Unless the governor is prepared to fight for those things, his poll numbers will continue to languish.

It won’t be easy to prod the General Assembly to do the right thing, perhaps. But, in this environment, with a public hungry for change, that is something a great leader — rather than merely a great glad-hander — has to be able to do.

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