Another Wishful Rhode Island Thinking Budget
Every year, the General Assembly’s budget is full of optimistic assumptions meant to make the budget seem balanced on paper, with hundreds of millions of dollars to be found or taken throughout the year. This time around, though, we’ve reached the level of parody:
As initially proposed by Carcieri, the Assembly’s budget plugs deficits with more than $100 million in federal Medicaid funding currently contained in Congress’ jobs bill. The Associated Press reported at 7 p.m. that leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives, facing opposition from within the Democratic Party on the cost of the legislation, had stripped Rhode Island’s funding along with $24 billion slated to go to states across the country.
Confronted with the news reports during a break in committee action, Costantino phoned the office of U.S. Sen. Jack Reed. After a lengthy conversation, Costantino acknowledged that the increased Medicaid funding had been withdrawn from the jobs bill.
“It’s an unresolved issue,” Costantino said. “If in the next week we get more information, we will act responsibly. What that is, I don’t know.”
Those who run this state plan their budgets much like drug-addicted gamblers. They count on money they may not get; they cash in one-time sources of revenue even though it ends up costing them huge sums in the long run; they put off payments, at a cost; they take on debt, at a cost. One suspects that they know what the state needs to do — cut taxes, rein in regulations, erase mandates — but they lack the political will (or financial independence) to budget and legislate responsibly.
Yeah, Costantino promises to adjust as information filters down from the feds, but the one-time windfall shouldn’t be part of Rhode Island’s structural operations in the first place.