Once More, With Feeling: RI Government Must Shrink
John Kostrzewa notes what is likely just the baseline for actual results:
All of the recent turmoil is the result of Rhode Island’s anemic economy and plans to close state budget deficits of $219 million for the year that ends June 30 and $427 million for the year that follows ..
The report shows the state’s budget deficits for the coming years that end June 30 are forecast to be $362.2 million in 2012, $416.2 million in 2013, $457.8 million in 2014 and $535.7 million in 2015.
If the state government doesn’t take dramatic steps to rework its functioning, I suspect those numbers are going to look like wishful thinking. Kostrzewa insists that entitlements and social services spending have to be cut back, and he’s right. He’s also right that cities and towns have to “redirect some of the energy they are putting into whining about state aid cuts to restructuring their governments,” and the state will have to lighten the burdens it places on municipalities and school districts.
The only difference I have with Kostrzewa comes with this:
The tools [that the state should supply the cities and towns] range from changes to municipal pensions and minimum manning provisions, to municipal health insurance cost sharing and a uniform public school employee health care benefits program. Other proposals include eliminating mandates for school bus monitors and the requirement that school nurses be certified teachers.
My view is that the state should eliminate mandates, not reverse their direction. In other words, the General Assembly should provide relief from itself, but not impose terms on contracts, even if any economically literate resident would prefer those terms. Let residents get involved and rebuild their local governments on their own impetus; otherwise, the focus of activism for special interest will just shift away from towns, and they’ll place even more emphasis on dominating the State House, which will be more difficult to reach from the grass roots.