Groundwork for Political Cover
I’m not saying that the governor’s supplemental budget is perfect, nor am I claiming evidence of his staff’s diligence with regard to the items included therein, but this has the sound of political cover being draped over intentions to shift the onus of the budget fix and not to make necessary changes:
“This is extremely grim,” [House Finance Committee Chairman Steven M.] Costantino said. “We are set toward a catastrophe unless we act quickly. It’s also grim in the fact that many of the items in this budget are one-time fixes and gimmicks that are not tied to good budgeting practices, as well as some actions that realistically may not meet the timetable as set forth in the budget.” …
[House Fiscal Adviser Michael] O’Keefe warned the legislators to pay close attention to details and be wary of proposed cuts that may not have been properly scrutinized to ensure the promised savings. “There’s a heavy reliance on items that the necessary research appears not to have been done,” he told the committee.
It’s a bit much for members of the General Assembly to begin complaining about one-time fixes and gimmicks now. It was clear at the time that they passed it that the current budget was no different — probably worse — than the governor’s supplemental in this regard. Moreover, some of the changes proposed by the governor are structural, long-term repairs as much as they are short-term saving measures.
Their good humor was short-lived. Moving forward, lawmakers will have little room — and little time — to revise this budget and still achieve the savings they need to close the deficit.
This is true, but it’s fair to ask: Where, then, have they been? If it’s a point of criticism that the governor’s plan requires vetting and the General Assembly lacks the time, then why didn’t it convene sooner?
I have my concerns about the supplemental budget, and it worries me that the House fiscal adviser is even able to make claims about a lack of substantiation, but as I’ve already said, the governor must make the General Assembly own any changes to the plan. His mantra must become, “This is not the budget that I submitted.”
Above everything else, Rhode Island needs the political game and the shifting of blame to cease. We need stark lines around decisions and their makers.