Donnis Previews Talk with Governor Carcieri

The Providence Phoenix’s Ian Donnis previews an interview with Governor Carcieri over at N4N:

Carcieri remained characteristically upbeat during a taping this morning of WPRI/WNAC TV’s Newsmakers, but his ability to deliver remains open to question. When I asked why Rhode Island has been relegated to playing defense on the casino issue, the governor answered mainly by calling gambling a short-sighted form of economic development for Massachusetts and other states in the region.
Asked how Rhode Island will recover from the revenue hit if Massachusetts goes forward with casinos, Carcieri said the state needs to pursue other forms of economic development, and he was upbeat in describing various non-budget-related economic indicators. Yet Amgen — one of the companies to which he pointed — is cutting jobs, and it seems that we frequently hear about other job losses in Rhode Island, like this.
Carcieri has described his intention to go forward with cuts in the state workforce. Asked how he will overcome General Assembly opposition, he said he will talk with the legislature.

It seems Rhode Island has gotten into a pattern of relying on a few large employers to carry the economic load. When they pull up their stakes and leave, the overall economy takes a hit. Or maybe this is more of a perception thing. Thus, when Amgen or Textron cut jobs, the impression is we’re in dire straits. (Of course, the impression is pretty accurate). We need more small- and (especially) medium businesses to put down roots here. It can’t be done over night, especially in a state with a reputation such as ours, but more employers help to soften the blow when one or two shut their doors and take off.
That’s why it’s been so exasperating to watch all of the wasted effort expended chasing the “magic bullet” of gambling. Let me ask you this: if we had voted in a West Warwick Casino, what would have stopped Mass. Governor Duval from “only” going for two casinos in Massachusetts? Wouldn’t two Massachusetts casinos still have negatively impacted the projected revenue of a RI casino, just as they will probably do to Twin River and Newport?
Like Governor Carcieri says, casinos are short term solutions and putting too many eggs in the gambling basket isn’t a wise financial “strategy.” Like any other business, they are subject to the business cycle or external events. The thing with casinos is that they are an entertainment/service entity. They don’t produce anything (but “fun”!). Like any other entertainment venue, their business can be negatively influenced when there’s a “new game in town.” And it can happen pretty fast. Remember what the casinos did to the “Big Tent”? Throw in the fact that RI state government relies so much on their gambling take, and we end up like–well–like we are now: lost revenue and no solution.
We require a long term plan, which means enticing more business to the state. Especially those that actually make stuff. But I don’t think the method that has been tried recently will work. Crafting specific, sweetheart deals seem to only work so long as they are in place. Once they expire, off go those who took advantage of them. Instead, we need to follow a holistic plan. The entire business climate needs to change to first attract, and then maintain, new employers. Targeted business tax credits aren’t enough. What needs to be done is to lower the tax burden across the board and reduce the red-tape and regulatory roadblocks. This can be done without sacrificing safety or environmental or other quality of life concerns.
Other states have done it, we can too. We just need the collective will to do so. I think it’s there, but it needs to be cultivated. God knows, we’ve got plenty of fertilizer!

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johnpaycheck
johnpaycheck
13 years ago

carcieri is doing a great job… he is trying to change things that have been medoicre at best over the last 40 years….unfortuneatley, nobody wants change. there are too many people in ri feeding off the system
the same people ,like an idiot named bakst, think he should be like linc almond , who did zero and let john harwood get what ever he wanted.

John
John
13 years ago

Marc,
RI already has one of the nation’s highest percentage of total jobs in small businesses. And one of the lowest levels of capital investment per employee, which holds down productivity growth, improved competitiveness and wage growth.
But what do you expect in a state where the public schools underperform many other states (especially Massachusetts) after adjusting for demographic differences, the roads and bridges are in worse conditions than those in many other states, the taxes are higher (not to mention the private school fees you have to pay), the public sector pension and budget deficits are among the worst in the country (but the welfare programs among the most generous), the political culture is corrupt and antibusiness, and the Gordian Knot of special interests, cronies, ethnic loyalties and the stunning number of people who “know a guy” , has a family member who needs that public sector job, and/or runs a business that “has a good contract with the state/town” (or, in the old days, that great workers comp deal from Beacon, or, perhaps still, that great health insurance deal from Blue Cross) makes any rational observer conclude things will never change?
Is it any wonder that businesses aren’t exactly beating a path to the Ocean State? And those that aren’t somehow benefiting from the current “system” in RI are leaving? They are doing nothing more or less than acting rationally and in the best interests of their shareholders and employees.
PS: And how much longer does anybody really think Textron will remain independent?

Tim
Tim
13 years ago

Marc,
Why would any out of state company come here? What is our draw in comparison to other states? Rhode Island is a postage stamp in size the unions have run the place into the ground (ala Michigan) and have for decades which is why we’re in the dumpster we has a rich history of corruption in all levels of government and people are taxed to death yet receive little in return. Out west those states literally have border wars between them as they fight to gain leverage and attract companies to their states. We have little leverage because we have so little that’s appealing.

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