So Goes the Despicable Game
Last June, I predicted that the midyear budget shortfall for the state of Rhode Island would be $364 million. As it turned out, I overshot by just $7 million (less than 2% off the mark) — the point being that, whether the cause was revenue, administrative overspending, or unreasonable savings and income expectations, the number was entirely predictable. All one had to do was look at last year’s deficit, adjust the number for the pitiful production that was this year’s budget, and shout out a number.
That’s what makes the rhetoric of RI House Finance Committee Chairman Stephen Costantino (D, Providence) so stomach churning:
House Finance Committee Chairman Steven M. Costantino, considered the architect of the Assembly’s budget plan, said he hadn’t decided how to proceed. But he blasted the Carcieri administration for asking Rhode Island’s struggling hospitals to help fix problems caused largely by overspending at state departments under the governor’s control.
“The hospitals had nothing to do with that,” Costantino said, before firing several pointed questions at Department of Human Services Director Gary Alexander, a member of Carcieri’s Cabinet.
“What happens to uncompensated care in the state of Rhode Island?” asked a frustrated Costantino, adding that the cut “might be catastrophic for hospitals.”
As one learns by clicking the second link of this post, two-thirds of the budget shortfall was related to revenue declines. And as we’ve all known for months, some significant percentage of the overspending is directly attributable to the statutory demands of the General Assembly. And so goes the game: Create a house of cards and then jump up and down pointing at the Republican governor when it falls down. That’s why Mr. Carcieri’s nicey-nice style will not suffice in this state.
Costantino may be genuinely frustrated that no miracle arose to save the financial gobbledygook that our state government calls budgeting, but he can’t be half as frustrated as we who see clearly are that many of our fellow citizens will fall for his nonsense, whether out of apathy or because they’ve direct personal interest in the game’s continuation.