A Winter Meeting in Spring
What better way to spend the first Saturday of spring than listening to political speehes at the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition’s Winter Meeting?
RISC Chairman Harry Staley is currently making opening remarks. Frank Caprio has been walking the room. Ed O’Neil is here. And the governor just walked in with his entourage.
I’ve been battling unexpected technical difficulties. Gary Sasse explained some necessary tax changes. (I’ll have audio up later.)
East Providence Taxpayer Association’s Bill Murphy is now talking about the need for citizen activism, making arguments that would be very familiar to Anchor Rising readers and has progressed to describe circumstances in his native East Providence.
Next up is Treasurer Frank Caprio:
As it happens, Mr. Caprio was Harvard classmates with the previous speaker. Every now and then a carpenter is reminded how connected others are.
By the way, Mr. Caprio pointed out, during his opening remarks that Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian snuck in behind me.
Caprio is giving a brief history of state pensions. The tale begins in the 1930s and winds through decades of General Assembly failure to adjust… in the right direction.
“When groups say that they’re being unfairly attacked… the issue is that the equation has been changed to make it much better for one side.” (slight paraphrase)
Mr. Caprio is describing that we’re 10 years into a 30 year plan to balance our pensions, but he’s not really expressing a plan. His message is more that the legislature is currently working on it. “We’re trying to be fair,” etc.
Incidentally, I see that Rep. John Loughlin has entered the room and is standing next to Avedisian. Oddly, to his left. (I kid… not about the positioning, just its import.)
Now it’s the governor:
His first point was to suggest that coverage of the budget hasn’t been reliable: “The only thing incoherent about the budget is the people who are writing about it.”
Next he mentioned some of the former Ivy League athletes in the room, the point being that we’re in the midst of a contact sport, and he’s “mad as hell.”
“We are hanging in the balance.” I haven’t heard the governor speak all that many time, but he’s certainly more fired up than what I’ve perceived to be his norm.
The states that are in the best position, right now, are all the low-tax, right-to-work states. Regarding lavish public-sector union benefits, Carcieri doesn’t blame the state workers: “If you can get it, and your employer’s dumb enough to give it to you…”
“I’ve been in this six years; I’m tired of talking around the edges.” The reason that we’re in this mess is the special interests that control the legislature.
The interests are “masterful” and they’re getting better and better. You can see it at the national level. Point being that we the citizens have to begin making the same moves: running candidates against elected representatives who go the wrong way, organizing, and so on.
Legislators can’t move around the State House without being “descended upon by people who want something.” We need “a countervailing force.”
Carcieri just read an editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal about Illinois that might as well be describing Rhode Island.
Addressing the media directly: “News bulletin! News bulletin: The government does not create jobs.”
Rather than giving tax breaks to incoming companies, the governor would like to reduce or eliminate corporate income taxes.
“This is it. This year, either we’re going to do the things that will enable this state, or we’re not… It’s not a foregone conclusion, by the way.”
When Carcieri taught at Rogers High School in 1965, it was the only high school on the island, and Jamestown kids took the ferry over. “There ought to be one school system [on Acquidneck Island], one police department, on fire department on the island.”
Closing with three “philosophical principles related to the stimulus package:
- Hard choices are not going away because of stimulus.
- Unemployment is high, and we need to help them and to create jobs. “The only part of this package that is going to create jobs is the highway and bridge component.” The governor specifically mentioned
- Use this money as a bridge extending beyond the date when the federal money dries up, specifically by leveraging it to enact tax reform.
“I want to see the state do well; I got no other agenda. I’m not running for anything.”
Governor Carcieri framed his speech with a comparison with the American Revolution. It doesn’t take many people to get things moving, and we can turn the state around.
Now a Q&A session with all of the speakers. First up is a man from Middletown suggesting a reduction of retirement income tax. The governor is making the point that about 20% of the states payments to its retirees go out of state, a third of them to Florida. He’s also restating his support for eliminating the income tax.
Another question from the audience is where the noise from the business community is. Carcieri: “Everybody wants to keep their head down, in this state, because they’re afraid that if they stick them up, they’ll get whacked.”
Interesting tidbit. Bob Cushman from Warwick asked whether the governor’s proposed mandatory 25% healthcare copays at the municipal level will apply to contracts already in effect (such as the one just passed in Warwick providing for $11 weekly copays). The answer: No.
Keep that in mind taxpayers and municipal negotiators!