Little State, Big Problem
Rhode Islanders are used to thinking in proportional terms. When state-to-state comparisons are made, we look for the percentages and ratios because absolute numbers typically mean little. Sure, Massachusetts’ government spending is many times Rhode Island’s, but the question is how much it amounts to per capita.
So, at first glance, one may very well misread the numbers in the following:
The tab comes in at $9.4 billion for the unfunded liability for 155 separate plans run by state and municipal entities in Rhode Island, according to a Providence Journal analysis of pension-plan financial reports.
The total in New York state: $45.8 million, less than 1 percent of Rhode Island’s.
That’s right: our state of around a million people is talking billions while a nearby state twenty times the size is talking millions. Frankly, Rhode Island can muck with its tax system all it wants — making “revenue neutral” changes that shift the burden from productive people to less productive ones, lowering sales taxes in such a way as to create an actual and massive tax increase, whatever — but the powers who be really must hope that people who might invest in Rhode Island by moving or setting up shop here don’t look too much beyond quick-glance FAQs about the state.
As Monique’s post inherently hints around the edges, even staring down the throat of this leviathan, Rhode Island’s leaders are most likely to do what they’ve done consistently over the last decade and more: do anything just to get through another year. The main difference is that we’ve now shifted from one-time fixes to futile hopes that problems will go away.