Faced with another budget year during which voters repeated, “Yes, we’re serious; stop raising taxes,” progressives in Tiverton are lashing out to teach us a lesson. Unfortunately, they dominate the town’s Budget Committee, so they were able to convince themselves that the best path forward, politically, would be to virtually eliminate the town’s budget for trash pickup.
Oh, they’re claiming that the budget that I submitted (which won with 55% of the vote) forced them to eliminate that service, but as I show in a post on Tiverton Fact Check, that simply isn’t the case. They had $2.3 million of options from which to find $783,000 without touching trash or paving, and in fact, the Budget Committee itself was 84% of the way to covering the necessary amount before deciding to reverse course and hurt the greatest number of people possible.
That’s what it’s really about. They’re angry, and as tends to happen with angry people, their solution starts with the impulse to inflict pain. A number of details that are probably too localized to be of interest to a statewide audience support that interpretation, but here are a few examples:
- They (sadly including the police chief) are handing out business cards telling people to contact me if they aren’t happy about the pain; that is, the goal is to hurt people so that they’ll blame me.
- The town administrator said ending trash pickup would save $300,000 at most, but the Budget Committee decided to pretend it would save $500,000; the point, obviously, was to eliminate the service, not actually to find areas of real savings.
- During the budget debate, they argued against the lower budget on the grounds that 80% of town expenses are unchangeable and under contract, yet trash pickup is under contract until next year…. and they changed it.
- Their actual hope is that the Town Council will implement a new fee — imposing the tax that voters rejected by changing its name — and actually overspend the budget that the voters and Budget Committee approved.
- The Budget Committee didn’t even bother to balance the budget, just assuming that the Town Council will find some $150,000 in revenue.
Groups that are acting in the interest of their communities behave very differently. For one thing, they try to position themselves so that good policy benefits them politically. What we’re seeing in Tiverton is a group of insiders who think that bad policy will benefit them politically, and the politics are their priority, not their community. Hopefully, their friends on the Town Council — who will actually have to make the decision for real, not pretend — will see the calculation differently.
If we can learn locally, maybe we can take the lesson to the state level, where bad policy for political benefit pretty much defines Rhode Island government.