Governor Carcieri’s Preview of the Coming Budget Battle
At an impromptu press conference following this morning’s Economic Forum, Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri gave a strong hint as to where efforts to address the latest budget shortfall will focus.
This is part of the Governor’s answer to a question on whether the state will be seriously looking at consolidating services between cities and towns in the coming year…
Ultimately we are squeezed, and we’ve made huge changes within the state. The state budget is three pieces. It’s people and benefits including pensions. It’s the social services. And the largest piece of the state’s general revenue budget is aid that goes back to the cities and towns.
We’ve been putting extraordinary pressure on the personnel side [of state government]. I just saw the stats, we’re going to be down about 1,800 people in the last sixteen months. We’ll be down to 12,800, plus-or-minus, FTE positions. That’s the lowest in 20 years in the state. When I came in, I think it was 15,000. So we are shrinking the size of the state in terms of the workforce; you know all of the changes we negotiated in the terms of the contracts and the retiree healthcare.
What I’m saying is that we have really squeezed this hard. And you won’t find any state anywhere in the country that has done more aggressively the personnel piece. We also made major reductions in the human service areas and we’re in the midst of trying to finalize the global Medicaid waiver. We left the local aid in the last budget intact. In fact, they’re going to get more money because out of the 24/3, some of that money goes back into the schools. So at the end of the day, the pressure from what the state is facing is going to go back to the cities and towns, and I’m not going to listen to them just say that they’re going to raise property taxes. That’s when you’ve got to look at the kinds of [regionalization] things you’re talking about.