Supplemental Budget: Not Just Cuts, Tools Also
In today’s Pawtucket Times, Jim Baron points out that Governor Carcieri’s proposed (the Governor proposes, the General Assembly disposes) supplemental budget does not just reduce monies to cities and towns but would also provide a counterbalance; namely, relief from unfunded state mandates.
Carcieri’s proposal also resuscitates several initiatives to allow cities and towns to cut costs that the General Assembly rejected earlier this year, including, requiring all municipal employees and teachers to pay at least 25 percent of their health insurance costs; eliminating automatic cost-of-living increases to pension payments, reducing disability pensions for those able to do other work, and changing the age requirements for retirees to start collecting pension payments, and suspending the Caruolo law, which allows school committees to sue their cities and towns if they believe they are not properly funded, during years when state aid is cut to school districts and eliminating minimum manning provisions from police and firefighters’ contracts.
Those steps alone, Carcieri told reporters, would allow cities and towns to save approximately $120 million a year, more than making up for the money they will lose in the cuts to school aid ($20.5 million) and car tax reimbursement ($65 million).
“If the General Assembly gives those tools to the municipal leadership that we describe here, virtually all of that could be offset with savings.”
Mayor Fung, presumably speaking for all objecting mayors and managers, insists that his city’s budget is “bare bones”. But can that be true if it contains the above unfunded mandates?
None of this is easy for anyone. Hopefully, the cities and towns will direct some of their understandable angst, so far reserved for the Governor, to the General Assembly to obtain assistance with the expenditure side of the budget (namely, these mandates), now that it is clear that the state must once again reduce the revenue side.