The Macro View of Government Growth in Rhode Island

While waiting to go on the air on this evening’s Matt Allen show on WPRO (630AM), I heard Matt play Governor Lincoln Chafee’s Director of Administration Richard Licht tell Dan Yorke something to the effect that tax increases were necessary to maintain a reasonable level of government services in Rhode Island.
Governor Carcieri had begun to reduce spending on the portion of the budget funded by Rhode Island taxes. However, it was more than offset by increased spending from Federal and local sources. In fact, the sum of money raised from state and local taxes plus federal money spent by the state and has increased at a steady clip over the past 10 years by about 25%, after adjustment for inflation.


Here was the description of the spending pattern, written at the time: “This pattern is one of government growth on autopilot for most of the decade, whether the national economic climate was good or bad, whether state revenues were increasing or decreasing.
This idea of government expansion that is automatic and inevitable — with everything outside of government expected to adjust accordingly, of course — is an important focus of the dissatisfaction being expressed with regards to the direction that our state and nation are headed, as more and more people come to realize that steady increases in the real amount spent by government cannot continue indefinitely”.
Does the Chafee administration believe that this trend has to continue forever, in order for government to be effective, or that reducing total spending to the level of say 5 years ago is an impossibility?
For the record, I have twice sent Lincoln Chafee, once as a candidate and once as governor-elect, a set of questions that included the issue of the steady growth in the Rhode Island budget. The question was…
The combined state and municipal budgets for Rhode Island have grown steadily (adjusted for inflation) over the past 10 years, a period of time which includes September 11, 2001 and its immediate aftermath, the end-of-the-financial world as we knew it in 2008, and the relative lull (at least domestically) in between.
Is it by design or by accident that government has been growing as if on autopilot — or would you disagree with that characterization entirely? Compared with 10 years ago, are Rhode Islanders getting more in return for their increased spending?
The answer at that time was…
We do not agree with the premise of these questions.

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13 years ago

“We do not agree with the premise of these questions.”
Wasn’t that the answer that they gave to other questions, Andrew???
Is it possible that this answer, when originally issued by either Gov Chafee or his spokesman, got slightly garbled in transcription and that what they meant to say was:
“We do not agree with the premise that you are asking these questions.”

13 years ago

Not unusual that Chafee, a typical Leftist, would misapply the “premise” objection to avoid answering a legitimate question. Andrew offered him the opportunity to characterize the growth of government in his own terms, which made the question premise-free.
We have not yet found the limits of the cowardly dishonesty of the Left.

13 years ago

It gets much worse when you go farther back… I did the math on growth in the RI budget from 1991, and it appears to have -tripled- since then, even adjusted for inflation.
This is disturbing, Chafee likes to say that tax revenues will naturally have to move upwards ‘just to keep up with inflation’, but he seems to use that as an excuse to justify increases that outpace inflation by an order of magnitude.
When I think of 1991 vs. now and consider things like the quality of services, the condition of roads, etc. I find it very hard to understand why the state budget has tripled. The only explanation I can think of is that government is doing things it shouldn’t be, and the fiscal impact of those duties is encroaching on dollars that ought to be used to take care of ‘the basics’.

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
13 years ago

You can construct all the cute little graphs you want. I predict:
Before the decade is up this state will have a 10% sales tax-and still have a deficit.
Mark my words. Progressives are insane people.

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