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The Shutdown Heard 'Round the Country

Rhode Island continues its national public relations offensive with another bit of cheery news: the governor announced yesterday that he will shut down state government for 12 days.

The story, picked up with a brief in the New York Times and a longer Associated Press piece in USA Today, is another black mark on a state that somehow manages to make itself less and less attractive to industry with each passing day.

Of course, the governor and General Assembly have to make some tough choices in the short term. That can't be avoided. What's disappointing, as URI economist Leonard Lardaro told me in a recent interview, is the state's failure to turn the crisis into an opportunity for long-term reform.

And adding or repealing a tax or two - or, more often, talking about adding or repealing a tax or two with little follow-through - does not amount to long-term planning. These things must be studied in depth, packaged into a comprehensive and politically viable package, debated, passed and publicized.

Only then will the headlines brighten. Only then will Rhode Island have a chance to leave its dismal economy behind. 


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