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.The answer at that time was…
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?
We do not agree with the premise of these questions.