The Wrong Ideas
You’ve probably already read or heard about yesterday’s Providence Journal article about the lack of a sense of urgency among Rhode Island’s leaders, even as other states move quickly to stave off economic oblivion. Part of that leadership apathy probably derives from an unwillingness to do what has to be done; the powerful of state are fishing about for solutions that won’t rewrite the insanity out of our policies.
Representative Thomas Slater, who sits on the House Finance Committee, is hoping for an Obama bailout, pointing to “independent state agencies such as the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority and the Rhode Island Airport Corporation,” and whipping out the magic “consolidation” word. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer George Nee “worries that lawmakers rushing back to a special session might feel compelled to do something “stupid,” such as scrapping the state’s “defined-benefit” pension plan for state workers in favor of a 401(k)-type plan.” What he offers instead is, not surprisingly, a handful of items from the unionist wish list, with a nod to the progressives thrown in at the end:
Nee suggests that lawmakers instead take steps to create jobs: allow full-scale casino gambling; accelerate road and college construction projects for which there are approved, but unissued, bonds; create a “marine trade development authority” to “look not just at an expansion” of the port at Quonset point, but “at all of the possibilities.”
And, “revisit having a casino,” he said yesterday. “Let’s be real. Let’s stop the pretense that we don’t have one. Let’s do it full scale … and keep those people from Rhode Island from going [to] Connecticut.” On the revenue and spending front, Nee said, Carcieri could make a serious dent by firing the 580-plus “contract employees” who have been hired to do the work of state employees across state government, while lawmakers could “suspend” a phased-in income tax cut for the state’s wealthiest taxpayers. Of the promised tax cut, he said: “Everybody has to share in the pain.”
Oh, Rhode Island has to create jobs, but Nee’s attempt to corral them in an opportunistic direction would, at best, swirl the murky economic pool.
Even Republican Representative John Loughlin doesn’t go the necessary distance. He speaks against tax increases, but what he offers as alternatives (in the article, at least) are some tweaks to higher education and the registry of motor vehicles.
Rhode Island has to ask itself why people are leaving and why businesses won’t come here without specialized gifts from the government. The answer is obvious, as are the solutions: slash taxes, eliminate the bulk of regulations and other intrusions, and rebuild the state’s infrastructure. After the last election, however, it’s not unreasonable to be pessimistic about the willingness of Rhode Islanders to push for real change, but they’re going to have to do face reality sooner or later.