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  • August 30, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    Amid the unending agita over the pay and benefits for Rhode Island's public workers, Reuters reports:

    Local and state governments axed more than 200,000 jobs in 2010, according to U.S. Census data released on Tuesday that showed the growing threat of public employee layoffs to the economic recovery.

    According to the Census, local and state governments had 203,321 fewer full-time equivalent employees in 2010 than in 2009 and 27,567 fewer part-time employees.

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  • July 28, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    I was talking with former Brown University political science professor Darrell West a few days back when hopes for a grand debt-limit deal, if dimming, were still alive. He offered, perhaps, the best explanantion I'd heard to date for Washington's failure to go big. And now, with the capital's ambitions shrinking by the day, that explanation seems even more insightful.

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  • July 18, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    As Washington lurches inexorably toward a lesser budget deal, Congressman David Cicilline must be thanking his lucky stars.

    The broader deal that President Obama and Speaker of the House Boehner were discussing not long ago called for substantial cuts, including some in entitlement programs like Medicare, in exchange for a significant but far smaller growth in tax revenues.

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  • July 08, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    The high-stakes budget showdown in Washington, which has the Obama Administration and Congressional leaders working to cut a major deficit-reduction deal before the federal government hits the debt ceiling, has put Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in the spotlight. And it could have real implications for Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline's long-term political prospects.

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  • June 14, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    The death of Governor Chafee's two-tiered sales tax proposal and the gay marriage bill he advocated have prompted more than a few declarations of irrelevance.

    But with Smith Hill Democrats set to caucus today, and a formal budget proposal expected in the coming days, it may be time to re-evaluate.

    That budget, by most accounts, will include some sort of sales tax expansion.

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  • June 09, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    Providence Mayor Angel Taveras' top-to-bottom review of city finances, which revealed a two-year, $180 million structural deficit, has badly damaged the reputation of his predecessor, David Cicilline, who stands accused of covering up the capital's fiscal problems while running a successful campaign for Congress last fall.

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  • June 08, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    At the height of the David-Cicilline-left-Providence-bankrupt story, it was hard to imagine him ever escaping its harsh glare. But veteran political observers noted that the year-and-a-half until the next election is the proverbial "eternity in politics" and that attention would inevitably shift elsewhere - especially as the Taveras Administration began the painful process of cutting.

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  • May 23, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    Now that Treasurer Gina Raimondo has laid out some options for substantial pension reform, the hard part: getting meaningful legislation passed.

    Last year, the Pew Center on the States released a report titled "The trillion dollar gap" that took a nationwide look at the pension challenge (see pages 7-11, in the executive summary, for an overview of reform efforts across the country).

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  • May 16, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    The New York Times had a piece this weekend on Rhode Island's Medicaid experiment - and the GOP's push to trumpet it in the sale of its Medicaid block grant proposal:

    With Republicans pushing to rein in Medicaid costs, an experiment in Rhode Island is drawing the attention of some conservatives who say it has led to substantial savings without reducing care for the state’s poorest patients.

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  • April 20, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    A letter from Congressman Cicilline to supporters, taking on the messenger:

    I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the report issued today by former senior Carcieri Administration official Gary Sasse at the request of the Providence City Council, and I’d like to take a moment to set the record straight. The idea that the individual who led the charge for Governor Carcieri in making devastating cuts to cities and towns across Rhode Island would now criticize how we managed through these difficult cuts is just too much.

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  • April 18, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    Governor Lincoln Chafee takes to the YouTubes in a bid to save his struggling budget proposal. It's a sort of local version of Barack Obama's push to "win the future" - without quite the same rhetorical flourishes.

  • April 14, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed is putting the media on alert that she'll be speaking about Governor Chafee's sales tax plan when the Senate Finance Committee convenes at 2:30 p.m. to discuss the proposal. You can guess what that means.

  • April 14, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    I've got a cover story in today's Phoenix about Governor Lincoln Chafee's first 100 days. I was struck, in reporting this piece, on the divide between Chafee's conciliatory approach - work with the unions, pursue a sales tax expansion over steep cuts, try to woo the legislature - and the more hard-line approach of other governors: high-profile Republicans like Wisconsin's Scott Walker, yes, but even Democrats like New York's Andrew Cuomo.

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  • April 13, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    Government shutdown averted, the next major battle in Washington will be over raising the federal government's debt ceiling. Republicans are threatening to vote against it unless Democrats agree to major spending cuts. The government, they say, cannot continue its free-spending ways.

    A failure to raise the debt ceiling would lead to an unprecedented default that could have disastrous effects.

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  • March 24, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    The pension crisis. You know it's important, but the words make your eyes glaze.

    Well, I may have the story for you in today's Phoenix. It's pensions made fun. Pictures! Charts! Exclamation points! Charles Barkley makes a cameo here and Emperor Augustus, too.

    There's also a piece on Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, now that she's announced that she won't stick around for Obama II.

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