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.
As the chief architect of the state's finances under Governor Carcieri, Mr. Sasse was responsible for planning and executing the then Republican Governor's fiscal policy for the state. By the end of Governor Carcieri's term, the state budget deficit grew to more than $361 million. As a result of these financial decisions, state aid to cities and towns across Rhode Island was drastically cut at the height of the national recession. Providence alone suffered a more than $50 million cut in state aid, which caused much of the financial difficulty in which the City now finds itself.
We know that the challenges currently facing cities and towns across the state are principally the result of the draconian cuts in municipal aid from the state over the last several years. And NOW attempts are being made to shift blame away from their poor fiscal stewardship directly onto the cities and towns who have been most affected. Getting lectured on fiscal responsibility by the same individual who led the charge to drastically cut revenue sharing to cities, leaving a $50 million hole in the Providence budget, is like an arsonist blaming a homeowner for the fire he set.
But this problem isn't confined to Rhode Island. We're seeing this same approach in Washington where Republicans in Congress seem to have forgotten that the more than $14 trillion national debt is the result of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now they are attempting to shift the costs of their policies onto middle class families and our seniors by ending Medicare, and cutting Pell Grants and Head Start.
While this report makes some constructive recommendations, we cannot afford any more political grandstanding. Now is the time to focus our energy on getting our economy back on track and putting Rhode Islanders back to work.