How screwed is Rhode Island?

[A balky server at the office has delayed my blogging for the day, but here goes . . . ]

This question, in the aftermath of the General Assembly's passage of the budget last week, is the guiding frame for a rountable published in today's Phoenix:

At a time when most state budgets are flush with surpluses, Rhode Island’s fiscal house remains in disrepair. Although lawmakers defend the budget they passed over a gubernatorial veto last week, a lot of people have reason to be unhappy with the results [see “The worst of your new state budget,” TJI]. More ominously, Rhode Island faces budget deficits for the foreseeable future. Without significant changes, painful cuts and partisan polarization will remain as constants on Smith Hill.
Given all this, we decided to ask a bipartisan selection of political observers and elected officials three questions:

1. In the aftermath of the spending plan backed by the General Assembly, how bad is the budget situation facing Rhode Island in future years? What will be the most adverse consequences if the situation isn’t corrected?

2. How would you fix the situation?

3. How should cuts in state spending be focused? How should the state raise more revenue?

. . . .

Providence Mayor David Cicilline on Question 2:

The most important step is to craft a thoughtful, strategic five-year plan and then stick to it. To develop that plan, I would convene a group of experts from within and outside of Rhode Island. I would task them with offering recommendations to achieve the following goals: 1) a path to fiscal stability and closing the structural deficit; 2) modernization of state government to provide better services with as few resources as possible; 3) a plan to fund the world’s best system for educating children; 4) a restructuring of the tax system to eliminate reliance on the property tax; 5) restoration of the image of Rhode Island. While that plan is being formulated, I would also mobilize an aggressive, full-court press to accelerate economic development. Externally, send Rhode Island ambassadors around the country and the world to meet with global decision-makers. Internally, be more proactive about linking up entrepreneurs and capital with the brilliant researchers, designers, and inventors in our universities and hospitals.

. . . . 

        Governor Carcieri on Question 3:

Rhode Island does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. Despite having the seventh-highest tax burden of any state in the nation, all those taxes can’t keep up with our insatiable appetite for spending. We cannot tax ourselves to a healthy budget.
In the coming years, we must develop a sustainable budget that is not dependent on yearly tax increases or one-time gimmicks. We must decide what state services we can afford and which we can live without. As part of this process, we must have the courage to examine every area of state spending, from personnel costs to human services. Until we make this commitment, every future General Assembly session will be dominated by arguments about the state’s budget woes.

. . . .

Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian on Question 2:

Curtail all contract employees until you can decide if the positions are necessary. If the positions are deemed necessary, make them part of state system to save on the employment services for the outside vendors. Federalize any positions currently on the state payroll that could be paid for with federal funds. Limit department directors and division chiefs to only being able to spend 97 percent of approved budgets amount on discretionary spending — meaning that the additional three percent will revert back to the general fund. Regionalize and consolidate school governance to take advantage of the economies of scale that fewer administrators would mean. Create a stable long-range funding formula for state aid to education that allows communities to be able to do long-range forecasting and planning.

. . . .  

The Poverty Institute's Kate Brewster on Question 1:

The most adverse consequences of growing deficits are short-sighted program cuts that are harmful to low-wage working families and jeopardize the health and safety of our poorest seniors and people with disabilities. So long as the fastest growing jobs in RI pay low-wages, we must provide work supports, like subsidized health-care and child-care, so that parents can remain in the workforce and have their kids in quality, safe care. More than 1000 low-wage families are about to lose their child-care subsidies as a result of budget cuts. These families will likely find themselves in financial turmoil and potentially be forced to forego other basic needs, like health insurance, that will shift costs elsewhere in the budget.

Check out the whole package.

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