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Murphy backs away from self-imposed limit on his tenure

  

In a switch, House Speaker William J. Murphy -- often described as the holder of the most powerful position in state government -- is taking a wait-and-see approach to just how long he wants to remain Mr. Speaker.

During a taping this morning of WPRI/WNAC-TV's Newsmakers, Murphy indicated that he doesn't necessarily intend to hew to a previously discussed self-imposed eight-year limit on his speakership. Murphy, who had consolidated his power by January 2007, says he wants to see what happens in this session before thinking about 2010 and beyond. 

Here's how I described the situation almost two years ago:

Like apparitions, the portraits of former legislative leaders — many who have fallen prey, sometimes in sensational form, to their own hubris — line the walls of the State House.

Yet Murphy, who speaks haltingly during an interview, suggests he will be able to avoid the self-inflicted pratfalls that have ensnared some of his predecessors. “I’m not the type of person who has a huge ego,” he says, describing the size of his ego as nonetheless “healthy.” “I’m not looking at this position as one in which I’m trying to enhance my power.”

Such disclaimers notwithstanding, Murphy has suggested a self-imposed eight-year term limit for his tenure as speaker. He cites the importance, as with professional athletes, of knowing when to move on.

In the kicker to that story, I noted:

Until Rhode Island’s leaders help put the state on a stronger long-term economic footing, their greatest challenges will remain ahead.

The budget and the economy have only worsened, of course, in the time since. In related news, Murphy said this morning that he hopes to avoid tax increases in the next budget, but he wouldn't rule out such a possibility.

Asked about how much responsibility he bears for the current situation, Murphy said the House and Senate leadership, along with Governor Carcieri, all deserve some of it. Expressing disappointment about the lack of greater progress on economic development, he offered few specifics on remaking Rhode Island as more of an economic competitor.

Btw, Murphy's Brotherhood cameo (spoiler alert) is due to be broadcast this Sunday. He reaffirmed his enthusiasm for tax credits for the TV and film industry, but was unable to point to more than anecdotal evidence in suggesting that these offer a net fiscal gain for the state.

Meanwhile, if Murphy maintains his support and retains the speakership, he could eclipse Governor Carcieri in January 2011 as the longest serving top state official.

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