Interesting Times in Rhode Island, May 30

1. The formation of the budget commission requested by the Woonsocket City Council was announced last night by Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee. As is required by the state’s “municipal fiscal stabilization” statute, two of the members are the current Mayor (Leo Fontaine) and City Council President (John Ward). Sandy Phaneuf‘s Valley Breeze article on the appointment of the Budget Commission has some biographical detail on the other three members, Peder Schaffer (current Associate Director of the RI League of Cities and Towns), William Sequino (town manager of East Greenwich since 1988), and Dina Dutremble (former Woonsocket Education Dept. Business manager, who left that position about 10 years before the cost overruns that led to the current budget difficulties occurred); and also Woonsocket Finance Director Thomas Bruce’s reaction to the appointments: “Personally, I am delighted…I’m looking forward to working very hard with these individuals”. The initial steps taken by the budget commission are likely to be 1) dealing with the supplemental tax increase and 2) accelerating state-aid payments to Woonsocket, which is one of the things that the budget commission can do that the elected government can’t — and one reason why some members of the Woonsocket City Council were willing to support the request for the commission.
Addendum: More detail on other possible impacts of the budget commission is available from Justin’s post this morning at the Ocean State Current.
2. The legislature’s version of the state budget has been scheduled for a House Finance hearing on Thursday, with the annual marathon floor session expected to happen around June 7. though according to Randal Edgar and Philip Marcelo of the Projo, the final form of several key items is still to be determined…

Members also said key pieces of the governor’s municipal relief package, which would give cities and towns new powers to cut costs, change working conditions and curtail pension expenses, appear to be dead, though other pieces, such as more state oversight of school budgets, may survive.
And they said other budget proposals — such as expanding the sales tax to high-end clothing, raising the cigarette tax from $3.46 to $3.50 per pack and providing some $2 million to $2.6 million over five years to lessen the blow to retirees in Central Falls — still appeared to be in flux.

3. Over at the Ocean State Current, Justin reports that the table-gaming regulation bill was held for further study by the joint House/Senate finance committee that met last night. Despite the fact that this bill has obviously been fast-tracked in the legislature and is receiving a large share of lawmaker attention, Justin makes the case based on the same numbers that the legislature is seeing that the overall impact of adding table games in Rhode Island casinos will be very small compared to the impact of forces beyond the state’s control, i.e. what Massachusetts does with casinos. Millions of gallons of water may have already passed underneath this bridge, but the wisdom of the state spending so much effort on trying to directly manage one not-very-productive sector of the economy is very much open to question. Expect this to be one of the major pieces of legislation considered in the flurry of activity the follows passage of the budget.
4. The overriding forward-looking question in the 38 Studios saga is what is the next move for a company with no employees.

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Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
9 years ago

“Members also said key pieces of the governor’s municipal relief package, which would give cities and towns new powers to cut costs, change working conditions and curtail pension expenses, appear to be dead”
Great news. Now when the courts award the unions in Providence their “victory” on the COLA suspension the city will have nowhere to go but Chapter 9 and cutting the pensions in half.
Congratulations on your “victory”.

Monique
Editor
9 years ago

“Members also said key pieces of the governor’s municipal relief package, which would give cities and towns new powers to cut costs, change working conditions and curtail pension expenses, appear to be dead”
“Congratulations on your “victory”.”
Honest to pete. So the General Assembly WANTS to see that conga line to Bob Flanders’ doorstep???

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