And here come the stories about how terribly difficult it’s going to be for state agencies make up for the tens of millions of dollars in overspending for which they’re currently on track:
Layoffs at the DMV? Waiting lists for state-provided services for the disabled? Suspension of rides for the elderly to their doctors’ appointments? Postponement of the election-year pay increase promised to home-care workers?
All of these moves are listed by the chiefs of Rhode Island’s over-spending state agencies as undesirable, but potentially necessary options if the governor — and ultimately, the state’s legislators — are unwilling to cover their budget.
That sounds a little bit of a threat, doesn’t it? If the people’s elected officials are “unwilling to cover” the unauthorized spending, the news stories about people being hurt will inundate them.
For an interactive exercise to provide some context, look to the first department detailed in Katherine Gregg’s Providence Journal article:
“We have worked hard to close the ($2.8-million) gap as best we can but are constrained by certain factors beyond our control,″ she wrote, citing fluctuations in the number of admissions, length of stay for each inmate and “the medical conditions of this population — which we are constitutionally mandated to treat.” Unspoken: the cost of providing more effective — and more expensive — drugs to treat Hepatitis C. She also cited the added $1.1-million cost of a recent contract award to the Rhode Island Brotherhood of Correctional Officers that was not in the budget.
Now turn to the payroll module on the state’s transparency portal. Choose 2018, the last full fiscal year, and click on “Corrections.” The data’s easier to work with if you export it to a spreadsheet file, but you can get a sense of the numbers without doing so. Here are a few notable points:
- The department paid out more than $30 million in overtime.
- 89% of the department’s employees made more in overtime and “other” pay than they did in regular pay.
- Six employees took home more than twice their regular pay, including a few that almost hit three times, and 116 at least doubled their pay.
- 499 were paid over $100,000, even though their average regular pay was $76,408.
If these results are “beyond our control,” something is very, very wrong. And such things can be found throughout state government, not just in payroll, but also in employee benefits, welfare programs, contract payments, special deals, and more. Taxpayers might speculate that the truth is actually that directors are “unwilling” to get them under control.