Budget Summit: Second Panel Discussion
Richard Licht continues to moderate…
[10:33] Q to George Nee, President of the RI AFL-CIO: I know you are concerned as anyone else with balancing this budget. Do you have any ideas where money can be saved?
[10:34] George Nee: We have focused too much on the FTE issue. We haven’t looked at total personnel costs, overtime, and sub-contracting and contractors.
[10:35] We have 300 lawyers on the state payroll, but we use lots of lawyers as outside consultants.
[10:36] There are jobs in government that are revenue-generators. For each new revenue agent you hire, you end up collecting more revenue. Enforcement of prevailing wage can increase revenue.
[10:38] People in the private sector are being misclassified as independent contractors. They should be reclassified as full-time employees.
[10:39] State employees should have more say in running their departments. They could come up with tremendous ideas for saving money.
[10:40] We’ve heard too much about cuts for the past 5 years. Labor appreciates Governor-elect’s Chafee’s balanced approach.
[10:41] Combined reporting, to get more revenue from corporations that earn money in Rhode Island.
[10:42] Reamortize the state pension fund.
[10:42] State employees and teachers have paid their fair share. “It’s time to let them have a little rest”.
[10:43] Budget presentations deal with figures and figures and figures. We lose sight that it is a values document and the moral document.
[10:44] Q to Helena Buonanno Foulkes: What can we do to help grow the economy in the state?
[10:45] Buonanno Foulkes: There is a sense that big budgeting changes can occur from year-to-year, as RI struggles to balance its budget, making it hard for businesses to plan.
[10:46] We need to be as efficient as and competitive with neighboring states.
[10:47] We need to invest in education and training. The number 1 concern of business is for the workforce in this state.
[10:48] Improved effectiveness and efficiency are needed in the healthcare system. There is a big burden on the consumer, to have to figure out how to navigate the existing system.
[10:49] Rhode Island has a good opportunity to advance in the world of entrepreneurship.
[10:50] Q to Kimberly McDonough, President of Advanced Pharmacy Concepts: What do we do about the RI economy?
[10:52] McDonough: Economic advantages of off-shore manufacturing in places like China are diminishing, due to increasing costs and civil unrest. It is creating an opportunity to bring manufacturing back.
[10:53] BUT someone bringing their factory back from China to the US is willing to go anywhere in the US. We have to be competitive with the entire country to capture a part of that.
[10:55] I think McDonough just said that her business income last year was taxed at a rate of 65%, due to the general weirdness of the tax code (“general weirdness” is my phrase).
[10:56] McDonough also has an interesting anecdote about her company’s health-insurance being terminated, due to some unusual regulations. I’ll post the audio explaining later.
[10:58] “What is going on in Central Falls is unconscionable”. McDonough says #1 impediment to expanding her business in RI is finding workers who have the skills to do the work.
[11:00] Q to Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian: Regionalization, consolidation.
[11:02] Mayor Avedisian: Cities and towns are working on it, from the ground up, but the devil is in the details.
[11:04] You can’t just say “you four communities are now together”.
[11:05] There are systemic problems everywhere. Combining them doesn’t solve them.
[11:06] Communities need more flexibility to be able to combine on their own.
[11:07] Department of Municipal Affairs needs more power to be able to enforce the state reporting requirements cities and towns are supposed to obey.
[11:08] Proposes bi-annual budgeting for cities and towns.
[11:09] Q to Scott Wolf of Grow Smart Rhode Island: How do we streamline permitting and related processes?
[11:10] Scott Wolf: We need more predictability and a quicker process for developers.
[11:11] Different state agencies that impact development need to coordinate better, and provide a single point of contact for major projects.
[11:13] The ultimate goal is prosperity, not austerity. Prosperity is what we need for Rhode Islanders.
[11:14] We need to improve our transportation system and our higher-education system, and to eliminate the structural budget deficit.
[11:15] Q to Pablo Rodriguez: What challenges are unique to the minority-owned business community?
[11:16] Rodriguez: The increase in social service spending is not the cause of the budget deficit, it is the result of improper budgets in the past.
[11:18] People with the biggest challenges have the most difficulty in accessing the system. That can be fixed, and it essential for people of color that it is fixed.
[11:19] Latino children in RI have the lowest math scores in the country.
[11:21] We shouldn’t be looking for places to cut, we should be looking for places to make money.
[11:22] When we try to create something like a financial literacy program, it gets fragmented between too many different offices.
[11:23] Medicaid is a money-maker for Rhode Island, because of the effects of matching funds. We should deliver Medicaid more efficiently, not cut it.
[11:24] Just passing laws is not enough for minority-owned business initiatives, we have to get each department to think creatively to implement programs.
Governor-elect Chafee finishes up with four points:
- Priorities towards education were reinforced.
- Governor-elect Chafee emphasizes the e-commerce issue again.
- By increasing FTEs, we may be able to bring more revenue to the state.
- And more FTEs is more people paying into the pension system.