What’s Ailing RI?
John Kostrzewa’s description of Hasbro Chairman Alfred Verrecchia’s speech at the recent dinner hosted by the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council brings to mind a few questions:
“Unless we change the way we do work we will not achieve long-term sustainable cost reduction nor will we eliminate the structural budget deficit and be able to provide a more competitive and stable tax environment,” he said. “… We can’t afford to have 39 fire, police and public works departments; we can’t afford to have 36 school districts. We need to consolidate the backroom activity of government at both the state and municipal level.”
Presumably, Rhode Island once had a stable economy and a sustainable public budget; did it have fewer towns and school districts, then? On the matter of structural budget deficits, does Verrecchia have evidence that consolidation would save towns — some of whose total budgets are only in the tens of millions — the hundreds of millions that the state’s budget is perpetually lacking?
Lastly, would consolidation solve this problem, enunciated by Ed Mazze, or would solving this problem be more likely to end the structural deficit?
In Rhode Island, there is a high underemployment rate since virtually no jobs have been created since late 2007. Some of the underemployed remain in Rhode Island rather than look for jobs in other states because their spouses have good jobs and they want to focus on their children, the family or other personal matters. Presently, the average time it takes to find a job is longer than the time unemployment benefits are paid.
The whole consolidation thing seems faddish to me, and I don’t see how it saves sufficient money or resolves Rhode Island’s manifold problems.