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:

  1. Priorities towards education were reinforced.
  2. Governor-elect Chafee emphasizes the e-commerce issue again.
  3. By increasing FTEs, we may be able to bring more revenue to the state.
  4. And more FTEs is more people paying into the pension system.

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12 years ago

Is anybody chasing their tail yet? George Nee’s suggestions are both prdictable and scary.

Contrarian View
Contrarian View
12 years ago

No surprises here. The special interests are singing their self-serving songs, and Governor Barney is completely enthralled by them.
I predict that in Nov. 2012 a major GA campaign issue will be a pledge to sponsor legislation to require a runoff in statewide officer elections.

12 years ago

“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.”
If that’s the case, then why don’t we put all 1.2 million Rhode Islanders on the state payroll? Just think of how much money we’ll bring into the state and we’ll have everyone paying into the pension system! It’s brilliant!

12 years ago

I think you’re on to something, Patrick!
We just need to Ponzi it up a bit.
That said, there were two really important points that ring true:
1. We need to fix what’s coming out of our schools. We can’t have any long-term hope for the future if we are graduating (or -not- graduating) people who can’t function in the kind of economy we’re going to have.
2. We need to reorganize social services around a more sane service model. Everyone who needs social services should have the option to easily check what they’re eligible for via the web. Government services should be a lot more like Customer Service and a lot less ‘going from building to building getting forms filled out’. Records should be electronic and centralized. It should be -easy- to determine eligibility, and disqualification should be automatically calculated.
There’s nothing Rhode Island needs more than a few really big, well-managed databases to streamline social services.
Not only does this make the service more efficient, it would allow waste, fraud, and abuse to be tracked. It would also be more effective than ‘e-verify’ at keeping services out of the hands of people who shouldn’t get them.

12 years ago

This runoff talk sounds like the losing team demanding the rules should be changed. Six words: Be careful what you wish for.
Example: Steve Laffey comes strutting back here (he’s done it before), decides the state GOP is a bunch of marshmellows and decides to run indie. He gets 40 percent, a Dem gets 35 and a GOP moderate gets 20 or so.
I really like the Dem’s chances in that runoff.
It would be kind of fun to see the people crying about Chafee winning with 36 percent be hoisted by their own petard in that scenario.

Contrarian View
Contrarian View
12 years ago

Nice try, but that scenario is so full of your own narrative that it’s unthinkable to those who don’t already agree with you.
If the RIGOP is still bunch of marshmallows in 2014, there really will be only a handful of them, because the conservatives will all run and vote as independents affiliated with the Tea Party.
Secondly, if Rhode Island survives Chafee’s first term, people will be so sick of him, his union puppet-masters, and the destruction wrought by “Progressive” doctrine that they will run screaming towards the Right. Heck, by then “The President can shove it” might be a badge of honor.
Thirdly, no matter how the election goes, the result will be easier for people to accept if the winner actually represents the majority of voters. This Balkanized result we had in 2010 is an insult to the taxpayers.

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
12 years ago

The real problem is in today’s projo: there are 502,000 employed in the state.
Likely at least 100,000 are in the government “industry” or in a government funded non-profit.
That means 400,000 supporting the other 700,000.
The tail is wagging the dog and with all the “stimulus”, tobacco and one time gimmicks (reamortization anyone?) rapidly running out, the drain is being circled.
There’s a tiny piece of good news for the victims of the Smith Hill crime family in today’s news. You know that 2% payroll tax break for 2011? Think about it-our local royalty the cronies, cops, crybaby firemen and “all for the kids” teachers-they don’t pay a penny to SS so they don’t get a dime!
Merry Kwanza!

12 years ago

Awesome coverage, Andrew!
“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.”

12 years ago

These people sound like alcoholics. The only problem, as they see it, is that they need another drink.

Scott Bill Hirst
Scott Bill Hirst
12 years ago

With the scenario in Rhode Island, Laffey likely would have possibly or probably won the governorship this year.

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
12 years ago

Big deal. We would still have Weed, Fox, and the rest of the corrupt crew that really runs things.
Why bang your head against a brick wall?
Laffey was smart to get out, if I had his money I would do the same. I expect Carcieri is thinking he should have done the same right now. This state is a crumbling Iron Triangle of cronies, parasites and Millionaire Marxists and make no mistake demographically it is getting WORSE with the freebies served on a silver platter to illegal aliens from every sh**hole in the Third World.

12 years ago

So, with Chaffee’s irrational and illogical thought process, and labor’s fist up his butt, who will the powers to be in the General Assembly have to blame now?

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
12 years ago

So, with Chaffee’s irrational and illogical thought process, and labor’s fist up his butt, who will the powers to be in the General Assembly have to blame now?
Posted by Lee at December 18, 2010 9:28 PM
The “teabaggers in the House” who refuse to give the parasite states any more “stimulus”.

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