More Wealth Transfer to the Urbans; More Bad Drafting


Among the first bills rolling out of the General Assembly, this year, is one to transfer even more state tax dollars to Rhode Island cities.  As the related press release puts it:

Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), Rep. Michael Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket), Rep. John M. Carnevale (D-Dist. 13, Providence, Johnston) and Rep. Shelby Maldonado (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls) sent a letter to the co-chairpersons of the working group — which is poised to vote on its recommendations Thursday — beseeching the panel to consider shifting aid to communities with high concentrations of affordable housing, in large part because of correlations between low-income populations and students with higher education expenses. …

“Our communities have met the state goal of 10 percent low income housing. As such, we are generally absorbing additional costs since it has been repeatedly determined that students who live in public housing perform worse in school than students who live in other types of housing, thus requiring additional interventions,” the group wrote in the letter sent last month to the the working group’s co-chairpersons, Elizabethe Burke Bryant and Donald R. Sweitzer.

It could just be ignorance on the part of the legislators, but the state’s funding formula already notches state aid up in response to the community’s low-income residents at least twice: once by estimating that a low-income child needs 40% more money to be educated, and once by turning the balance of the obligation toward the state based on the principle that low-income communities have less “ability to pay.”  This new bonus would be little more than a transfer of wealth that gives municipal government incentive to prefer low-income residents.

Moreover, bad drafting could make this bill even more mischievous.  Note the calculation:

After the five (5) year period provided for in subsection (a)(1) of this section, and for each year thereafter, any community that exceeds the required minimum goals identified in subsection (a)(1) of this section for low and moderate income housing shall have its education aid increased in a percentage amount equal to the percentage by which the community exceeds its required minimum goals of ten percent (10%) or fifteen percent (15%) whichever is applicable.

If you’ll recall word problems back in math class, that language would have a huge effect.  A community that is supposed to have 10% affordable housing, but that has 20% affordable housing exceeds its minimum goal by 100%.  That would mean its education aid would double.  The language ought to say that the aid increases by a percentage equal to the percentage points “by which the community exceeds its required minimum goal.”

  • Mike678

    “low-income child needs 40% more money to be educated,” I wish it were this simple. Perhaps close to the truth: “The ineffective and costly RI education system costs taxpayers 40% more in areas with a large # of low income families.” From the Woonsocket and much of Providence’s school test results, I’m not sure we are actually achieving ‘education’.

  • Tommy Cranston

    You know what-as long as the majority of my fellow suburbanites keep voting for the D as in dumb party we deserve EVERYTHING we get.