Summing Up the Budget (And RI’s Problem) in One Sentence


The Providence Journal article on the Rhode Island House’s budget vote last night captures in one quotation the problem our state is struggling to overcome:

“I expect the budget to rise every year,” said House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello after the final vote, a few minutes before 10 p.m., in response to Republican complaints about overspending. “To not expect it to rise every year is not realistic.”

First, let’s go along with the premise that the state budget should rise every year.  Does it have to go up 3.9% every year, regardless of the health of the economy or changes in taxpayers’ ability to pay?  That’s the important next question.  From Mattiello’s explanation, it doesn’t seem that there is any limiting principle.  From his comments to WPRI’s Ted Nesi:

“I always look at the specifics,” he said. “The level of spending in this case was appropriate to the needs of our society.” He noted that the cost of social services continues to rise faster than other areas.

But there is no reason a budget this big has to climb every year.  If it’s possible that annual growth of 3.9% is too much, then it’s possible for it to be too high, right now.  Sadly, state leaders exhibit is no underlying philosophy.  There is only a balance of various interest groups’ power.  Raises for state employees.  Increases in welfare-related spending.  More crony deals (as foreshadowed by the increased generosity of tax credits for movie productions).

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Taxpayers will only become a consideration when they do one of two things:

  1. Change their voting habits in a way that threatens entrenched politicians.
  2. Leave the state in sufficient numbers that the politicians have no choice but to reduce spending or squeeze those who remain painfully enough that they notice (and resort to #1).

  • Guest

    Deepwater Wind and National Grid has a court approved 3.5% annual compounding cost of living adjustment to the state-wide electric rates the municipalities and the state of RI must pay for the next 20 years.

    Local businesses cost of products and services plus state and municipal taxes will raise 3.5% each year for next 20 years.

    Face the facts, way back when you could have made a difference, you did not step up to the plate but toyed with Deepwater Wind as a folly that would not happen.

    You made your bed now you’ll have to sleep in it.

  • Mike678

    “He noted that the cost of social services continues to rise faster than other areas.”

    Ah, the root of the problem. If you subsidize it, you’ll get more of it. And more of it will demand and vote itself even more. Thus the only real option for those “non-elites/union members” is door number 2. I hear the Carolina’s are beautiful!

  • Just Jos

    One third of the Rhode Island budget is Medicaid and UHIP cannot distinguish between who should and who should not be eligible for benefits. Some estimates place the number of ineligible recipients at more than 10%. House Oversight and the media (specifically WPRI) know this because knowledgeable insiders have told them but nobody dares put on the pressure because they know that it will cost votes. There is no excuse for more than 300,000 people in a state with a population of 1 million to be on Medicaid. And the program provides better health insurance than you have with no deductibles, copays, unrestricted use of emergency rooms, free dental care, medications, mental health coverage…

    • guest

      “There is no excuse for more than 300,000 people in a state with a population of 1 million to be on Medicaid”. What do you think is going to happen with an aging population?

  • Guest

    Guest, On the contrary Medicare is not “SUBSIDIZED health insurance” as it is part of Social Security fully financed via payroll taxes.

    Social Security is made up of three trust funds, retirement trust fund, Medicare trust fund and a disability trust fund.

    When you retire at age 65 or 66 you receive social security and at age 65 yup receive Medicare medical insurance benefits for your healthcare.

    All of the payments are your taxes withheld from your pay during your work history plus interest.

    What has happened is your elected officials have been raiding the trust funds to balance budget and pay for wars. The U.S. Congress, Senate and Presidents have left worthless paper IOUs to the amount of $2.8 trillion as of 2014.

    • guest

      Medicare is more complicated, since Medicare was never designed to be fully self-funding. Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) is supposed to be self-funding like Social Security, but Part B (supplemental medical) was always funded partly by beneficiary premiums and partly by funds from general revenues.