There is a rumor out of Smith Hill that Governor Gina Raimondo is asking the General Assembly to approve one hundred new state jobs in the 2018 budget. The timing of this request is especially unfortunate, from the governor’s perspective, in light of the results of the great digging by the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s Research Director Justin Katz, who recently determined that the state payroll had already grown substantially under the governor’s administration. From the Ocean State Current.
… the state government has added 458 more employees than it lost during the two years of budgets that were implemented under this governor. Those new employees account for an additional $30,639,475 in annual pay.
Note that this includes courts and state colleges. Nevertheless, this is a seriously eyebrow-raising increase in new (mostly TAXPAYER FUNDED, let us note) state hires. This remarkable, two year bloat of the public payroll apparently isn’t enough for Governor Raimondo, however, who is reportedly now looking to add one hundred more FTE’s.
A couple of weeks ago, in response to the news of the unexpected $134M state budget deficit, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity denounced a decades-long
allegiance [by state officials] to a budget that has failed its people; a budget that requires unhealthy levels of taxation and regulation.
And this week, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity released an analysis that shows the alarming consequences of this approach: 80,000 people, or the equivalent of eleven Rhode Island towns, have moved out of Rhode Island since 2004. (Center’s public statement here.)
Rhode Island officials have been doing something very wrong since at least 2004 to drive the equivalent of eleven towns out of state. It isn’t hard to pinpoint the problem, as the Center notes, to an unhealthy devotion to excess spending, resulting in high taxes, as well as excessive regulations put in placed mostly by well-intentioned but highly misguided officials, much of which got implemented, piece by damaging piece, in the state’s annual budget.
Of course, Governor Raimondo’s proposal to further exacerbate this failed approach with one hundred new FTE’s might be part of a Trump-esque bargaining stance with the legislature as the 2018 budget is hammered out: ask for way more than you want so as to drag the other side closer to your real negotiating goal.
But that not the only one reason that the General Assembly should be leery of this reported ask for one hundred new public positions. The bigger red flag is the notable (non)success record of the official putting it forward.
> The latest of her initiatives suffering heavy casualties is Governor Raimondo’s proposal to offer taxpayer-funded “free” college tuition, which took heavy fire on two fronts last week. Former chair of the Rhode Island Board of Education Eva Mancuso criticized it sharply on this weekend’s Lively Experiment. And earlier in the week, Credit.com ranked Rhode Island as the third highest state that college grads leave. Clearly, college degrees are not the key to either economic development or obtaining a job, as the governor has been trying to claim, and any tax dollars spent on “free” college tuition would be a complete waste.
> The most notorious failure of her administration, and the cause of much real suffering among many Rhode Islanders, is the botched launch of UHIP. Governor Raimondo’s decision to prematurely order the launch of the very unready new Unified Health Infrastructure Project computer system (and, even worse, immediately mothball the old system) proved catastrophic. The handling of this significant public interface project alone is enough to cast serious doubt about her judgement.
> Speaking of premature, her truck toll program has already started to blow up. (Side note: for its own sake, the General Assembly needs to shut down this obvious economic and political disaster bearing down on the state like an out-of-control tanker truck. When tolls get expanded to cars, no one in the state is going to accept a deflection of blame to the truckers or the courts or sunspots. Everyone will know that here wouldn’t be tolls on ANY vehicle if legislators and leadership hadn’t followed the governor’s heavily influenced and selfish lead by voting to put them on trucks.)
> The flop of Cooler and Warmer. Well, at least one of the failures of her administration brought a welcome chuckle (albeit at a cost of $5M out of the taxpayers’ wallets) rather than long term economic damage and/or human suffering. (For a smile, take a look back at Justin Katz’ contemporaneous round-up of the reaction wave of wit here.)
This isn’t a complete list; feel free to point out what I left off in comments.
But it is enough to make the larger point: the governor’s judgement in the realm of public policy has proven to be heavily flawed. Whether of tolls or “free” college tuition or one hundred new hires or of any other costly and damaging new proposals that may come out of the governor’s office, skepticism and polite rejection by the General Assembly is fully warranted and necessary, for the good of the entire state.