To Whom Chafee Would Give a Refund
Some last-minute budget amendments that Governor Lincoln Chafee has submitted to the General Assembly are telling with regard to his attitude and priorities:
In another budget amendment, [Budget Officer Thomas] Mullaney announced a “medical-benefit holiday” for state workers, that will spare them, for one pay period, of having to contribute to their health insurance benefits. …
The reason: the state’s numbers crunchers said they initially overestimated by $3.086 million how much the state is likely to need to cover the cost of the self-insured benefits.
So, in the governor’s view, when the state overestimates the cost of employee benefits and budgets accordingly, it should in some way transfer the excess to employees. That’s certainly defensible, and it might even be advisable, but then we move on a few paragraphs:
Asked how Chafee intends to pay for the 25 new DMV staffers and other additions to his original spending plan, spokesman Michael Trainor pointed to the recent upswing in revenue collections in the months since Chafee laid out his $7.66-billion budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. His new proposal stands at $7,753,482,420.
State budget analysts now believe revenue will run $53.8 million ahead of earlier estimates for the year that ends June 30, and $65.9 million ahead for the year that begins July 1.
That is, when the government collects more in taxes and fees than it expects, in the governor’s view, it should spend every penny, mostly in ways that will build in the expenses for future budgets to, for example, pay for hired employees. As writer Kathrine Gregg goes on to note, the total increase in revenue projections is $113.3 million, which “could be used to offset the projected $331-million deficit next year.”
Not if this governor has his way.