A progressive vision for RI

David Segal and Matt Jerzyk yesterday used a ProJo op-ed to outline a progressive vision for Rhode Island.

They focused on three important needs: efficiency through regionalization, and creating a predictable funding formula; building the Green economy; and delivering criminal-justice reform.

THERE’S LITTLE disagreement that Rhode Island’s budget needs savings, that our property taxes are too high, or that our economy could use a boost. Sadly, the conventional political wisdom offers only untenable answers: Cut taxes, precisely for those who are already doing best; slash public-school funding and block cities from raising these funds on their own; use tax breaks to swipe business from other states; de-fund social services, and so on.

Further, Governor Carcieri has chosen the “you’re with us or you’re against us” mentality that has governed policy-making in the Bush administration. In his world, Democrats, labor unions, immigrants, single mothers and the poor are enemies to be chastised through press releases and on talk radio.

Alternatively, we’d suggest that our problems can be solved by bringing people together and thinking broadly in ways that rely on our state’s strengths, maintain fairness and fill real needs. We write to offer a progressive vision for this legislative year.

The three focal points emphasized by the authors make a lot of sense. And while Governor Carcieri has been more vocal in citing a desire to turn Rhode Island into a leader in alternative-energy sources, the governor and the legislature, together, seem to have done little to advance the ball on the other two fronts.

On the contrary, given the potential to save money through criminal-justice reform, the state wastefully back-tracked last year with the misguided try-juveniles-as-adults-to-save-money thing.

As some others have suggested, the bright spot in the state's current budget crisis -- if we're lucky -- could be a sufficient degree of motivation to reinvent government in Rhode Island.

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