Yorke Exposes the “Varsity” Rub and Tugs

Dan Yorke has been exposing Legislative “rub and tugs” for a few months. In total, these little payouts from legislators to local community groups have cost the state $2.3 million in 2008 (and, as Yorke points out, has helped keep the politicians in office–they’re such good people!).
Well, now Yorke’s taking a look at the “varsity edition” of the rub and tug: Community Service Grants given out by various state agencies. The total price of these is almost $18 million. Read the doc for specifics, but here are the state agencies that dole out more than $1 million a year:
Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation – $1,460,634
Department of Elderly Affairs – $2,166,917
Department of Health – $1,167,430
Department of Human Services – $5,468,252
Elementary and Secondary Education – $1,324,333
Office of Higher Education – $1,569,171
Council on the Arts – $1,241,445
Unfortunately, while some programs are worthy and actually exhibit the kind of good work that a public/private partnership can do, the fact is we’re too far in the hole to keep this up. If state workers don’t renegotiate salary increases; if pensions and benefits aren’t re-done; if advocacy groups don’t reign in their expectations, then some genuinely good programs will lose money. These are the choices we HAVE to make now. $600 million has to be erased somehow, and this is just the start.
Who to thank? Why, the very same political leaders who haven’t been willing to confront the problem we’ve all seen coming and–some of us–warned about. We, the voters of this state, continue to enable these people and aren’t exempt from blame. And now we’ll all have to pay the price.
UPDATE: {Below the “fold”}


Here are some particularly large (over $100K) Grants. Like I said, many are worthwhile programs but we need to decide if the state can afford such largesse.
Department of Administration
RI Service Alliance $140,000
RI Sports Foundation $350,000
Economic Development Corporation
Base Realignment/Closing – Newport County Chamber of Commerce $200,000
RI Export Assistance Center/Bryant $209,471
RI Sports Council $150,000
Small Business Development Center / Bryant $127,020
Urban Equity Incubator $216,328
World Trade Center Rhode Island $137,729
Secretary of State
Rhode Island Historical Society $270,265
Department of Children, Youth and Families
Children’s Friend And Service-Family Support Center $114,000
Department of Elderly Affairs
Diocese Of Providence $303,734
Elderly Security & Abuse $190,533
RI Meals On Wheels $402,800
Department of Health
Blackstone Valley Community Health Center $171,000
Cancer Council $178,123
Hepatitis C $141,197
Thundermist Health Associates $209,000 (and $93,733 under DHHS)
VNS Home Health Services Family Outreach Program $182,242
Department of Human Services
Blackstone Valley CAP $181,271
Boys and Girls Club of Rhode Island $131,962
Crossroads Rhode Island $450,000
East Bay CAP – CAF $119,650
Graduate Medical Education $361,250
International Institute Of Rhode Island $119,298
Kent County Decontamination Program $140,836
Kent County Hospital Emergency Room Services $281,674
Kent House $107,808
Providence Community Action Program $428,234
RI AFL-CIO Dislocated Worker Program $150,000
RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence $277,890
RI Community Food Bank $384,041
VNA Statewide $511,274
Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals
A New Leaf $115,134
Problem Gambling $149,625
Elementary and Secondary Education
Pawtucket Tolman High School Team Planning $171,000
RI Consortium for Instructional Leadership and Training $100,000
Year Up Providence $186,000
Office of Higher Education
Children’s Crusade $1,056,408
College Readiness Program – Alternative Education Programming Inc. – OHE $210,000
Institute for Labor Studies & Research $208,763
University of Rhode Island
Senior Standard Medical Information System $201,875
Council on the Arts
Providence WaterFire $300,000
Veterans Memorial Auditorium Foundation $593,750
Historic Preservation and Heritage
Vietnam Veterans Association $150,000
Judiciary
Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program $382,500
Rhode Island Legal Services $270,000

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Greg
Greg
13 years ago

Dear Attorneys that visit this site,
I would like to talk to someone about suing the state on violation of separation of church and state grounds for giving the Catholic Church $300,000.

Monique
13 years ago

Oo, I found an item that can definitely be cut:
“RI AFL-CIO Dislocated Worker Program $150,000”
We already have an AFL-CIO Dislocated Worker Program. It’s called the state payroll. This extra $150,000, therefore, is redundant.

Tom W
Tom W
13 years ago

>>Oo, I found an item that can definitely be cut: “RI AFL-CIO Dislocated Worker Program $150,000” We already have an AFL-CIO Dislocated Worker Program. It’s called the state payroll. This extra $150,000, therefore, is redundant.
I wonder if there is a $149,000 a year position called “Director of RI AFL-CIO Dislocated Worker Program?”

John
John
13 years ago

I never realized the Office of Higher Education was such a conduit — I’ll give the leadership of the General Assembly credit for creativity. Look at that: Alternative Educational Programming (Rep Ray Gallison), $210,000; Institute for Labor Studies, $208,763. Impressive. Maybe Yorke should have someone on the phone from that shop come on the air to explain the justification for these two grants, and, oh yes, what metrics have been used to track program effectiveness and efficiency…

Ken
Ken
13 years ago

RHODE ISLAND STATE PENSIONS ARE NOT WHAT THEY ARE MADE OUT TO BE ACCORDING TO STATE OF INDIANA:
The State of Indiana Legislative Services Agency Office of Fiscal and Management Analysis completed “A Comparison Study of State Employee Pension Programs” across 50 states also utilizing information gathered during “2006 State Employee Benefits Survey: Benefits in Effect January 1, 2006” authored by Workplace Economics, Inc., Washington D.C., 2006 and reported back to Indiana Pension Management Oversight Commission on October 25, 2006 the results.
The State of Rhode Island is ranked in the State of Indiana report as having one of the lowest state efforts for pensions (defined benefits) ranking 43rd out of 50 and has the 3rd highest percentile (%) of required employee salary contribution (State of RI employees 8.75%) in the nation and ranks 30th out of 50 nationally for value of the returned benefits.
http://www.in.gov/legislative/publications/PensionStudyReport.pdf

John
John
13 years ago

Nice try, Ken, but no sale to this voter.
Why, pray tell, does RI have such a low level of employer (i.e., govt) contributions to the state employees pension plan, while the latter have such a high contribution? Could it have anything to do with the fact that public sector union leaders, via their bought and paid for Senators and Reps in the GA, agreed to this, in budget after budget after budget? And why, pray tell, did they do this? Why, to fund ever increasing spending on social welfare programs. And why, pray tell, did they do this? Because with private sector union power and RI’s private sector economy shriveling on the vine for the past 20 plus years, staying onside with the rising number of “progressives” in the GA was the only way to keep their grip on power and keep the goodies flowing to the favored few.
Ken, you and your public sector union colleagues made a deal with the devil and now you are reaping the whirlwind.
Don’t expect me to cry myself to sleep tonight over your “crisis.”

Ken
Ken
13 years ago

John,
Number one, I do not belong to a union. Number two, when you assume things about me you make an ass out of you and me! Number three, I am retired, not public sector and tired of people pointing fingers and not doing anything constructive to alleviate the problem.
I was surprised as anyone after all of the hype going around about the use of my fixed income tax dollars to sweetheart deal the State employees retirement system. What I did find out is there are four retirement systems operated by the state and during Gov. Bruce Sunderland (Democrat) tenure and budget crisis he under funded the whole state retirement system approximately $300 million but he balanced the structural budget defict.
The good ship Rhode Island is sinking. Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays! What are you going to do with your all mouth and no action?

Greg
Greg
13 years ago

I’m very suspect that Ken is really a Rhode Islander. Mentioning “Gov. Bruce Sunderland” was my first clue.

Monique
13 years ago

Ken, I’m not completely following your point. If you’re saying that public pensions have not been fully funded – bingo. That’s what many of us have been saying for some time.
“tired of people pointing fingers and not doing anything constructive to alleviate the problem”
We correctly point fingers at the people who caused this problem and who have had the power to fix this problem from the beginning: Democrat controlled state legislature and city/town councils who promised something big but diverted the resources elsewhere. To point a finger at anyone else is foolish; no one else has the authority to deal with this problem.
“Doing something constructive”.
Bad news there, Ken. The solution remains the same and rests with the same people who created the problem. Proper allocation of the not inconsiderable resources (seventh highest taxed) of the state to fulfill the promises made. Anyone looking forward to receiving a public pension needs to contact Speaker Murphy and their state legislators and ask them to do nothing less.

John
John
13 years ago

Ken, Yes, the state contribution to the employee pension plan(s) was cut under Sundlun to balance the budget during the credit union crisis. But the Democratic leadership of the General Assembly chose not to make them up in subsequent years. And where was this money going? To fund rapid increases in welfare spending. Here’s a concrete example: what did the GA choose to do a couple of budgets back with the one time windfall they expected from the AIG settlement? Did they use the whole amount to reduce the yawning pension deficit? No. They added it to the operating budget to avoid cuts in welfare spending. The point is clear, if brutal: the Democratic leadership of the General Assembly has consistently avoided taking any action to (a) reduce welfare spending; (b) either increase pension contributions or reduce benefits and therefore the size of the unfunded liability; or (c) increase the health of RI’s economy and thereby make the state more attractive for tax generating investments — e.g., by reforming our pathetic public education system, or our stridently anti-business web of labor laws and regulations (e.g., review the history of the no overtime for nurses legislation). And now the state and the Democratic leadership are coming face to face with the consequences of this inaction. Rome is fully aflame and the fiddling can’t go on any longer. As Monique notes, the choices are clear: (a) cut welfare spending; (b) cut state employee pension and retiree health care benefits; (c) cut spending on government programs; (d) cut all those grants that keep our bloated not-for-profit sector afloat; and/or (e) cut the number of state and local employees — since we all know that compensation reductions are out of the question. Of course, Ken, if you are one of the folks out there… Read more »

Andrew
13 years ago

Ken,
I ask this honestly: Are you sure you understand what a structural budget deficit is, because to say…

he under funded the whole state retirement system approximately $300 million but he balanced the structural budget deficit.

…makes absolutely no sense. The unfunded pension liability is part of the structural deficit.

Mike
Mike
13 years ago

The chickens have come home to roost.
Complete silence from the GA, Jerzyk, Segal, Dennigan, Lima, Paiva-Weed, Sissyline, etc.
They’re starting to look like Erich Hoeneker in 1989 Berlin.
Couldn’t happen to a nicer crew!

L.Chappell
L.Chappell
13 years ago

The community service grants has been long known as the political favors repayment to the Speaker. With the wasteful spending going on here and the budget, it won’t be long before the axe will come down on all of this and many people will be hurt. You have no one to blame but yourselves for returning these corrupt people to the state house.

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