The two stories at the top of today’s Providence Journal give a sense of the problems when government is characterized by a homogeneity of party and governing philosophy. For example, the House plans to waive rules that put the governor’s raises for upper staff squarely in the middle of the budget process:
Current law gives the governor a small window of time, in March of each year, to propose and then justify at a public hearing any proposed raises for cabinet members.
The Department of Administration then has until the last day in April to refer the proposed new salaries to the General Assembly. The raises go into effect 30 days later unless rejected by the House and Senate.
Raimondo asked lawmakers to do away with that provision in the budget that she proposed to lawmakers in March. The General Assembly’s Democratic leaders didn’t go that far.
Instead, the budget will give leadership a deadline of late August to drag everybody back to the State House to undo the raises. We can gather that the governor would have to be pretty unreasonable to spark that level of reaction.
The second story has to do with the House Republicans’ alternative approach to funding roads and bridges. Obviously, the GOP’s proposed amendment to the budget is political theater, but that’s indicative of the problem. Both the governor and the Speaker of the House can be utterly dismissive of the plan because there is no chance of its happening.
Rhode Island’s governing system leaves little opportunity for surprises (other than revelations of corruption, naturally), so the participants can come to consensus in back rooms among partisan friends without any real need to negotiate a minimization of risk. If there’s a chance, even a small one, that the minority party can orchestrate a surprise, it isn’t as obviously political theater, which would be a healthier state of affairs for both sides, not to mention the people of Rhode Island.