Spitballs for Fun and Politics

Yes, the governor has been too quick to allow the budgetary games to continue, and before that he was too eager to present an optimistic picture. Most definitely, furthermore, public department heads should have been loud and visible declaring the unrealistic nature of the requirements and budgets that they were given. But as long as House Finance Committee Chairman Steve Costantino’s actions are limited to conducting hearings, Rhode Island’s downward spiral will continue:

The House Finance Committee called upon nearly every major department director to explain spending decisions responsible for almost $80 million of Rhode Island’s current-year deficit of $357 million, believed to be the largest budget shortfall as a percentage of state spending in the nation.
“This committee is not trying to be contentious. We’re trying to put pressure on you because we are in crisis,” committee Chairman Steven M. Costantino said after a particularly tense exchange with Gary Alexander, director of the Department of Human Services….
Costantino asked Jerome Williams, director of the Department of Administration, whether the governor’s office could assume direct control over state departments that overspend. …
Costantino also questioned whether the governor had sufficient knowledge of spending in departments under his control. Directors make up the governor’s cabinet and answer directly to him.

There is only so much an administrator can do when the mandates handed down don’t match the budgets available. A delusional business plan makes it impossible for the various departments within a company to meet their goals. It’s too easy for legislators to “put pressure” on officials from the operations side; to get the state back on track, the General Assembly must overhaul everything that it tries to get the state government to do.
Executive departments — with the governor leading — should take Costatino’s citation of a law that fines department heads for overspending should take the threat as an opportunity to put on the brakes no matter the consequences and post the list of statutory requirements that made the action necessary on the statehouse door.

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Monique
Editor
12 years ago

I’ve been tapping my foot at this myself from another angle.
Departmental compliance with the budget should be a given. But more importantly, when it is achieved, only 25% of the deficit has been closed.
Compared to the rest of the deficit, this is relatively easy to deal with. If, as Justin says, the mandates exceed the allocated funding for a particular department, the General Assembly needs to prioritize those mandates or be prepared to live with what is not carried out.
The other 75% of the deficit will require considerable time and attention. Dwelling overly long on this portion will quickly turn into grandstanding.

Anthony
Anthony
12 years ago

This is surreal. For years, the General Assembly filled state agencies with a “Family and Friends” plan that rivaled AT&T, raked Carcieri over the coals for wanting to “cut too much” and overrode gubernatorial vetos to pass bloated budget.
Now the same people are questioning spending of state agencies and trying to blame Carcieri?
Maybe it’s too much to ask, but shouldn’t somebody be pointing this out?

Monique
Editor
12 years ago

Great point, Anthony.

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