Welcome Back General Assembly
Today is the first Tuesday in January, which means by the state’s constitution, the General Assembly is back in session. While I’m not sure why they need to meet every year in a state the size of Rhode Island (in Texas they meet every odd numbered year) it sure helps bloggers to come up with more material while they’re in session.
A couple sources today talked about some of the things we can expect to see addressed in the next six months or so. First and foremost, we’ll hear about municipal pension reform. The Assembly just finished up one round of pension reform on the state level, but this time, they’ll be discussing how to help all the cities and towns of RI fix their problems. Some, like General Treasurer Gina Raimondo felt there were too many different plans and issues for the state bill to handle the plans held by all 39 municipalities. They all have their own challenges. One of the biggest issues we’ll hear discussed with the local pension reform will be for the city of Cranston. Last year, I spoke with Mayor Fung about his unique situation.
Then, when reading the various articles talking about what the Assembly will be tackling, I get a bit disappointed, put it mildly. Dan McGowan puts numbers next to each of the issues that he brings out. I’m not sure if this was intended as having any meaning, but I see “Job Creation” with a number 9 next to it. In an AP story found in the Boston Globe (h/t Ted Nesi) (wouldn’t that be great if we didn’t have to find Providence news in the Boston Globe?), “Economy” is mentioned after “Budget Deficit”, “Taxes”, “Municipal Pensions”, and ahead of “Education”, “Nursing School” and “Civil Unions.”
To me, this is proof that people just don’t get it. Look at all of those things except for civil unions. Every single one of those is budgetary and financial. They all have to do with money in one direction or the other. The number one, biggest, most important thing this General Assembly can do for the next six months is to focus on one thing. Build an environment in Rhode Island that promotes job creation. All of those other issues mentioned get easier when you have people working and paying their income taxes.
The Assembly needs to create an environment that continues to build on the national buzz that Rhode Island is getting. Some can debate whether it is deserved, but Rhode Island is getting a lot of national attention from the media for the pension reform that just passed. What happens then is business owners will look at that and start to put a bug in their head about whether Rhode Island will be a good move for them. So they’ll investigate further. What’s the business climate like?
If this General Assembly can build on the buzz by creating more national attention through creating a better atmosphere for business, it will only accelerate the state’s recovery. And this is a problem that the General Assembly can fix, if they choose to. How else can anyone explain why all of RI’s neighboring states have a much lower unemployment rate? Look at this graph.
The Assembly members all have their own pet projects they want to work on and we do have some big issues that need to be addressed. However, if this downward spiral of people leaving and jobs leaving the state is not reversed and reversed now, then changes need to be made in leadership. When Assembly candidates come knocking on our doors in the fall, we should be asking them one question only, “What did you do to create an environment for jobs for Rhode Island?”
I’d ask them all today, on their first day back to work. What are you going to do, today, to create a climate for job growth in Rhode Island? I’m listening.