Rudderless Rhode Island: National Perception is Reality
Tucked in between Massachusetts and Connecticut and overshadowed in Northeastern political discussions by states like New Jersey and New York, Rhode Island is barely noticed these days.
Still, the Ocean State bears watching. Its fiscal problems are, relative to its size, among the worst in the country. And the reform agenda (if you can even call it that) of its new governor, Lincoln Chafee, elected with union support and with only a plurality of the vote, is among the tamest in the nation. In Rhode Island we may get to see how the union version of fixing a state’s problems via tax increases and the barest of reforms of government spending and employee entitlements works.
Ouch. Then, the laundry list:
Though smaller than its neighbors, Rhode Island very much bears the stamp of Northeastern politics and governing. It has the third highest level of public employee unionization in the country, 64 percent, behind New York and Connecticut. Its government is among the top 10 in the nation in per capita spending and in the tax burden it imposes on residents, plus the state has one of the least attractive business environments….
Rhode Island’s long-term obligations compare unfavorably with just about any other state, and that’s saying a lot….
the Daily Beast recently ranked Rhode Island the state most likely to go bust…
Moody’s…ranked Rhode Island among the most troubled states on a variety of metrics…
A recent audit revealed that Rhode Island’s biggest city, Providence, has been spending more than it budgets throughout the recession and depleting its reserve funds in the process, to the point where the city is almost out of cash….
[A]nother city, Central Falls, is insolvent thanks to $32 million in promised post-retirement health-insurance costs for its employees plus $48 million in pension obligations that the city can’t meet on its own….
The burden this spending places on the private sector is significant. Rhode Island is not a state where businesses are investing in the future. An analysis of private sector investment several years ago by the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council found investment per employee was among the lowest of any state, 30 percent below the national average. And while the state ranks only 20th in average private sector wage per worker, it ranks 4th in public sector pay.
Yay, us. Malanga also details the non-solutions being offered up by our Governor (and notes that Chafee only won with 36% of the vote). Just not good.