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Conservative Policies Produce Rapid Economic Growth

For eight years, progressive-left politicians have told us that the ‘new normal’ for economic growth would be limited to the 2% range. And for years, our Center and other free-market advocates argued that major tax and regulatory reductions would reverse this course and lead to rapid economic growth, meaning more money and prosperity for families. After this week’s 4.1% GDP growth report, there can no longer be any doubt that we were right.

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Next/Last Round of Toll Gantries: Raimondo Administration Solicits Public Comment on an UNFINISHED Environmental Assessment

A couple of weeks ago, Governor Gina Raimondo’s Department of Transportation announced the locations of the balance of ten toll gantries and released an Environmental Assessment [PDF] of them. They also announced that hearings to take questions and comments on the E.A. would occur in three locations on July 27 – tonight, as a matter of fact.

Yes, that’s right, RIDOT is holding public hearings on a very significant project on a summer Friday evening. Quite similar in spirit, as a matter of fact, to the scheduling and location of the hearing for the first Environmental Assessment – in that case, two days before Thanksgiving hard by a cow pasture in South County so remote, the cows themselves need GPS to get there.

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No Space Between Governing and Campaigning

Brian Gallogly is right to lament on Twitter the politicization of the Community College of Rhode Island under Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo:

CCRI President Hughes setting a new precedent by standing in front of a campaign banner & essentially endorsing Gov. Raimondo for reelection. Prior Rhode Island college presidents stayed neutral so they could work well with whoever won.

However, the fault is not all hers.  Gallogly’s response is to a tweet from Raimondo announcing her “second term universal job training and education plan.”  The governor includes a video of her announcement and speech (bookended with words from CCRI President Meghan Hughes) at CCRI.

The problem is the ambiguity between an official policy announcement and a campaign event.  Under this governor, there is no space between the two.  Governing is campaigning, and campaigning is governance. At some point, that practice transitions from simply poor taste to corruption, and a governor becomes something more like a potentate.

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Super Governor Promotes Basic Services (with Big Bucks)

What’s one advantage of having an unprecedented war chest to fund the re-election campaign of an unpopular governor?  Well, as Spencer Rickert points out from Smithfield, the candidate can buy town-specific videos naming specific road repair projects that were “fixed by” the candidate:

Gina Raimondo fixed Capron Road Bridge in Smithfield to make Rhode Islanders safer and put our construction crews back to work. Under Gina’s leadership, we have already fixed more than 75 bridges and roads, in every community in Rhode Island, as part of a 10-year, $4.7 billion investment in the state’s infrastructure.

No, the video does not provide any evidence that Rhode Island’s Democrat governor, Gina Raimondo, was at any point out in the field repairing Capron Bridge Road, but the online video does bookend her initial use of the RhodeWork signs to promote her own name.  Just so, the video claims:

In Smithfield Gina Raimondo is investing $8 million in roads and bridges

If that means the Raimondo family has taking $8 million of its own money and generously donated it to the cause, this might really be breaking news.  As Alan Gianfrancesco comments to Rickert’s post:

She did not fix anything. We did. With our high sales tax, gas tax, corporate tax, nookie tax, toothpick tax and animal waste picking up tax.

Tell the truth.

Over the months that John DePetro and I have been discussing the election, I’ve wondered how effective standard political materials could be (even when inflated with millions in campaign funds) after four years of scandalous failure on the part of state government.  Will people forget UHIP, “Cooler & Warmer,” and all the rest because the governor is claiming credit for fixing roads, or will they bristle at the notion that spending more of our money (including with tolls) to do what should be the normal operation of government is some sort of act of altruism on her part?

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​National Trucking Unloads on Rhode Island’s Truck-Only Tolls

This afternoon, the American Trucking Associations filed suit against Gina Raimondo’s RhodeWorks truck-only toll scheme, stating that it violates the Commerce Clause, citing its discriminatory nature and challenging its constitutionality. (View the lawsuit here.) Tune in now to 630 WPRO now, by the way, to hear the famous Mike Collins talking to John Loughlin (filling in for Dan Yorke) about the lawsuit.

The national truckers are not messing around: they are represented by ​Mayer ​Brown, the fifteenth largest law firm in the United States. Heavy artillery has been cut loose on a highly destructive, unnecessary new revenue program. On a certain, visceral level, that’s a beautiful thing and one wishes that this would happen with far more bad government programs.

Unfortunately, a highly likely outcome of the case will be an order to the State of Rhode Island to either desist tolling trucks or make it non-discriminatory by spreading the cancer to all vehicles including cars. Yet not one but two studies confirmed that tolls of any kind are not needed to repair Rhode Island’s bridges.

There have been many unanswered questions swirling around Gina Raimondo’s highly dubious, highly destructive toll plan.

Why was Governor Raimondo only capable of coming up with a cutting-edge, outside-of-the-box program that is destructive and burdensome rather than positive and propitious?

How did RIDOT get the truck counts and diversion rate, a critical basis for restricting tolls to only certain classes of vehicles, so wrong?

How did RhodeWorks tolls explode from $400M (per Governor Gina Raimondo in August of 2016 at Minute 15:00) to a completely open-ended, multi-billion dollar revenue stream?

Did Gina Raimondo, Nicholas Mattiello and Theresa Paiva-Weed truly believe that tolling trucks only, something that no other state does – a “unique approach” as RIDOT itself admits – was going to pass a legal challenge?

But the biggest question: if the lawsuit goes sideways and RhodeWorks tolls are ruled unconstitutional, will Nicholas Mattiello, Gina Raimondo and all Rhode Island legislators stand by their promise that tolls will never go on cars and scrap the RhodeWorks tolls?

[Monique has been volunteer spokesperson for StopTollsRI.com since tolls were first proposed three+ years ago and began working for the Rhode Island Trucking Association as a staff member in September of last year.]

After years of citizen outrage against truck-tolls in the Ocean State, the American Trucking Associations and three motor carriers representing the industry are brining a federal lawsuit against the State of Rhode Island on constitutional grounds likely to cost taxpayers millions.

Tolls Force ATA Lawsuit That Could Cost Rhode Island Taxpayers Millions In Legal Fees

After years of citizen outrage against truck-tolls in the Ocean State, the American Trucking Associations and three motor carriers representing the industry are bringing a federal lawsuit against the State of Rhode Island on constitutional grounds likely to cost taxpayers millions.

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A Plank in the Moderate Platform

Although one can’t really claim it to be a “moderate” idea, a policy pledge that Bill Gilbert sent out as a Moderate Party press release would be really fun to watch:

The Moderate Party’s candidate for RI Governor is advocating a tit-for-tat response to the current administration’s inappropriate use of eminent domain to seize private property for construction of a new PawSox stadium. “If elected I will work with the State Properties Committee to acquire Raimondo’s and Mattiello’s real estate for the public use and public good. I will convert these areas to public parks and open space forever named after each of them,” said Bill Gilbert.

Raimondo and Mattiello have threatened the rights of every tax-paying property owner in RI by passing a law that says they can use money never appropriated by the voters to confiscate a person’s land and give it away to billionaires, so they can build a PawSox stadium. Gilbert stated, “It’s governmental thuggery at its worst!”

Of course, if Gilbert were to win, Raimondo would simply be a private citizen, making the plan feel less appropriate, not to mention pointing to the reality that best way to impose a consequence and improve the function of government (and its respect for our rights) is to knock bad actors out of office.  In that regard, Gilbert’s candidacy is arguably at cross purposes with his intentions, creating the possibility that he’ll deprive a non-Raimondo candidate of victory by bleeding votes.

Indeed, the Moderate Party has arguably been one of the leading causes of Rhode Island’s inability to impose accountability on governors for two election cycles, now.

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How Is the Governor Not Excommunicated?

Election season — with opposition from can’t-get-to-his-Left Matt Brown — is pushing Rhode Island’s progressive governor Gina Raimondo to shore up her support from those on the fringe of her party, as the Associated Press reports:

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo says she would like the state legislature to return for a special session on abortion rights following the announcement of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement.

WLNE-TV reports that Raimondo called the need to codify Roe v. Wade “more urgent and necessary than ever.”

Here’s a serious question Roman Catholics may rightfully be asking themselves: How is Governor Raimondo not excommunicated from the Church?  Here she is, a prominent Catholic, explicitly encouraging extraordinary steps to preserve the right to kill unborn children in Rhode Island in the face of still-speculative and distant change in federal law.

On both the grounds of the disposition of her own soul and her highly visible role in undermining Church teaching, how she can possibly continue to be recognized as a Catholic in good standing?

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It’s Wednesday; Do You Know Where Your Governor Is?

Rhode Islanders wondering where their governor is need only turn the news media… in California:

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo is set to hold fundraisers for her re-election campaign Wednesday in Hancock Park and Studio City.

The first fundraiser will be a noon lunch at the Hancock Park home of Cynthia Telles, the director of the Spanish Speaking Psychosocial Clinic at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is set to attend as a “special guest,” according to an invitation obtained by City News Service. …

The second fundraiser will be from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Studio City home of Elizabeth Hirsh Naftali.

Tickets for both fundraisers are $1,000, the maximum individual contribution allowed under Rhode Island law…

Telles is a big-time Democrat insider and enthusiastic board member of for- and non-profit organizations, like GM.  Naftali seems to be most notable as a fundraiser for Democrats, including, recently, Maxine Waters, who is currently under fire for encouraging mob action against Trump administration officials.

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The Governor’s Brief Walk on the Tightrope of “Tolerance”

Perhaps it’s misplaced to take too seriously Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s statement on the Supreme Court’s ruling, today, acknowledging the authority of the President of the United States to set immigration policy within the boundaries of the Constitution and federal law.  Still, I think something telling in this paragraph is worth brief consideration:

“Rhode Island was founded on the idea that freedom of worship is an inherent human right. I’m disappointed that the Supreme Court sided in favor of President Trump’s immoral and unnecessary Muslim ban. Our state has always been strengthened by the contribution of immigrants. It’s now more important than ever that we show the world that there’s a place for everyone in Rhode Island. No matter your race, where you’re from, your immigration status or who you love-you are welcome here.”

First observe the illogic:  The statement begins by referring to “freedom of worship,” which has nothing to do with this case.  The Trump administration is not seeking immigration restrictions because the immigrants will come here to worship.  It is not seeking to screen travelers based on their religion, rather than the countries from which they’re traveling, or to prevent worship once they’re here, but rather to prevent terrorism.

Now fast-forward to the end.  Raimondo notes that “there’s a place for everyone in Rhode Island,” elaborating that the categories applying to that assertion are race, country of origin, the legality of one’s presence in the country, and sexual orientation.  Note what’s missing.

Yes, yes, I’m tempted to quip that Raimondo — who uses her government office to discriminate against school boys in an official annual contest — doesn’t mention biological sex, perhaps because men aren’t necessarily welcome.  But more to the point, see how she’s dropped that “freedom to worship” thing?

Of course, I sympathize with the challenge that she faced in writing this statement.  She could have reinforced the “freedom of worship” point by welcoming people “no matter what God or gods they follow, or if they don’t believe in God at all,” but that would have been clunky.  She could have welcomed people “no matter what you beliefs,” but what about people who believe in outrageous things like the Second Amendment and the traditional definition of marriage, let alone the humanity of children prior to birth?

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Wasted Opportunity – 2019 Budget Graded “D-” by the Center

When will Rhode Island’s political leaders remember of the real needs of families? Despite a large and unexpected revenue windfall and clear policy lesson, resulting from the recent federal tax and regulatory cuts, Rhode Island’s General Assembly has wasted an opportunity for reform and, instead, are seeking to maintain the status quo in the FY2019 Budget.

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When the Chief Executive Is Often Somewhere Else

One can’t help but combine the news Monique highlighted here — that the administration of Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo missed a critical deadline for appealing a costly legal ruling — with today’s “Political Scene” in the Providence Journal:

As a champion fundraiser, economic-development cheerleader and devoted Yale Law School alum, Gov. Gina Raimondo has been out of state on official, or political, business at least 90 days since the Jan. 1, 2017, midpoint of her term as governor.

Her travels during this stretch took her to New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Arizona, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Texas, Oregon, Michigan, California, North Carolina and Washington, D.C.

All of these trips were identified in a summary provided to Political Scene by the governor’s office as either “official” (27), “political” (19), or “mixed” (15). The trips categorized as “official” included her Harvard Class Reunion in April, which her staff described as a valuable networking event.

We can discuss the (unknowable) variable of how often prior governors were out of state and debate the importance of Raimondo’s trips to the people of Rhode Island, but the plain reality is that her administration has faced repeated problems executing its responsibilities, and at the same time, she has been traveling far and wide, burnishing her own brand and collecting unprecedented money for her political interests.

I commented recently on a fundraising email from the Raimondo campaign emphasizing the importance of donating money in order to support the policies of the Raimondo administration, so it’s possible the Raimondo camp believes its fundraising in order to buy the next election to be a long-term benefit to the people of Rhode Island.  Those of us who must live with the consequences of government policies should probably give some thought to whether that interpretation matches their own assessment of a governor’s responsibility.

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UPDATED: Latest Stunning Display of Incompetence by Raimondo Involving our Most Vulnerable May Cost Taxpayers Tens of Millions

Both the Providence Journal‘s Kathy Gregg and WPRI’s Ted Nesi are reporting today that the State of Rhode Island, more specifically, the Executive branch’s Office of Health and Human Services (the Rhode Island Executive Branch being currently occupied, we should note, by Gina Raimondo), missed a critical court deadline to appeal a court ruling and thereby may have put state taxpayers on the hook for “$8 million annually for each year starting in 2016-17″. From Ted Nesi’s story about this disturbing and jaw-dropping situation:

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In Deep Water with Wind Company

Something feels both odd and not quite right about the fact that Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo is sending out fundraising appeals saying that “Gina can’t see this [new off-shore wind] project through without your support.”  So, if I give Raimondo the requested $10, is that going to keep her political career alive or is it going to facilitate a green energy project?  Should the governor be committing the state to long-term agreements with a private sector company that require the same governor to be reelected?

The whole thing is deeply strange.  A week ago, the Providence Journal announced that Rhode Island had “selected” Deepwater Wind to build a massive off-shore wind farm, but most Rhode Islanders probably didn’t even know we were even looking into the possibility.  As Alex Kuffner reports:

Although it was a Massachusetts process, a little-known clause in the the procurement rules allowed other states in the region to join in if they wanted to. Without making its intentions known publicly, Rhode Island acted on the clause.

Even Deepwater CEO Jeffrey Grybowski seemed surprised.

When last we heard about Deepwater’s “Revolution Wind” project, the company was promising all its jobs and economic development to the New Bedford area.  It looks like Massachusetts chose a different company, but Rhode Island was happy to take seconds.

Ideological disagreement with the governor aside, something just seems off about this whole thing.  A secret deal with a connected company materializes at the nth hour, and the governor starts fundraising off it immediately.  Forgive my cynicism, but it seems like more media attention might flow to this subject if it weren’t a Democrat governor and a fashionable “green energy” project.

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Not Quite Job “Creation”

Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s inflated view of the power of government was on full display when she announced success at having bought off some more companies with taxpayer dollars:

“It’s not everyday you can say by lunchtime you’ve created 2,000 jobs,” Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, who chairs the board, said as the meeting got underway.

Two of the companies, iXblue, a maritime navigation manufacturer, and Infinity Meat Solutions, which will package and process fresh meats, were lured to Rhode Island from other states by the incentives programs.

“We’d prefer to stay in Massachusetts,” Mack Barber, president and chief executive of iXblue, told the board. “This program brought us here.” He went on to say that it wasn’t just the incentives, but also the interest that state officials showed in bringing the company here.

Raimondo’s spin comes with multiple layers of “umm, no.”  Government doesn’t get credit for “creating” jobs just by giving corporate welfare to the businesses that do the work of creating.  That is especially true when the jobs were so explicitly stolen from other states.  “We’d prefer to stay in Massachusetts” sounds more like resignation than a creative impulse.

Moreover, we’ll never know what jobs might have been created in Rhode Island by Rhode Islanders who would “prefer to stay” in Rhode Island if it weren’t for the forced transfer of their wealth to these companies, and the competitive advantage that these companies gain by engaging the corrupt system.

Want to see real job creation in Rhode Island?  Get the government out of the way so that businesses want to come here without incentives and residents have every opportunity to build their dreams into vocations.

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Matt Brown’s Disastrous Platform

One can have little doubt that Matt Brown’s platform is right in line with the views of progressive Democrats.  One can also have little doubt that Matt Brown’s platform would be economically disastrous for Rhode Island:

On policy, Brown said he wants to reverse various recent state tax cuts, such as by raising the top income tax rate from 5.99% back to 9.9%, where it stood until 2010. He also said he would raise the top corporate rate from 7% back to 9%, but wants to create a graduated system that lets smaller companies pay a lower rate. He has not yet decided whether he wants to raise the estate tax, he said.

Brown pledged to increase funding for Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for low-income residents that has grown to about a quarter of the state budget.

So, increase dependency on government and suppress the free market dynamism that pays for government programs.  Brown’s program would push Rhode Island into the accelerated spiral that Connecticut is experiencing and the flight of the productive class.

It seems unlikely that Brown will actually have a chance to push his program as governor, but his end point is that toward which progressives are incrementally moving the state.  We need to take his succinct statements as a warning.

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Raimondo’s Major (Union) Jobs Announcement

The expansion deal that the state government of Rhode Island has just announced with Electric Boat at the quasi-public Quonset industrial park includes an understated feature:

As part of the deal with Rhode Island, Electric Boat has agreed to use union construction workers on the expansion and pay the prevailing wage.

Why would the government of the State of Rhode Island negotiate for the mandatory use of union labor?  If state officials would rather have more money go to construction workers, rather than have it available for additional investment, the prevailing wage requirement would have been sufficient.

The likely answer sheds a different light on the component of the deal requiring “$14 million in state infrastructure spending at the Quonset industrial park.”  If the state is negotiating on behalf of unions, this provision may have been requested by the state negotiators.  That is, they were happy to tie taxpayers hands with a contract requiring new government spending for labor-union work.

Note, by the way, that the vast majority of the deal offered to Electric Boat is a targeted exemption from sales tax.  Imagine how much more other companies would invest here if the state would eliminate or dramatically reduce the sales tax as a blanket measure.  Of course, if people were investing their money in economic development on their own initiative, the government officials wouldn’t so often have a seat at the negotiating table to direct funds toward their friends and political supporters.

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The Million Dollar Quarter: Is Rhode Island for Sale?

Everybody who writes or comments on Rhode Island politics is expressing shock and striving to process the fact that Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo took in $1.3 million in fundraising during the first three months of 2018.  That’s a 40% increase in her cash on hand over a period of time during which polling data and the general temper of the people of the state suggest lackluster support for the governor (to put it mildly).

So what gives?

Spreadsheets available from the state Board of Election Campaign Finance Unit show that a significant majority of the governor’s donations come from out of the state: 60.5%, to be exact.  Out-of-state donors tend to be more generous, too, with an average donation of $725, compared with $524 in state.  In fact 63% of Raimondo’s out-of-state donors gave her campaign the maximum of $1,000 (with one Robert Clark of Saint Louis, MO, apparently giving an illegal $2,500 donation).  This compares with 43% of in-state donations.

By contrast, Raimondo’s nearest Republican opponent, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, raised only 16% of his $191,460 first-quarter revenue out of state, with the average out-of-state donation amounting to $288.  Just 16% of Fung’s out-of-state donors gave the maximum $1,000 (with none giving illegal contributions greater than that).

The question Rhode Islanders should be asking is:  What do all of Raimondo’s generous out-of-state donors expect to get for their investments?  Neither of the two possibilities that come to mind aren’t encouraging.  Perhaps the donors want special deals from the governor’s office, using Rhode Islanders’ public resources.  Or perhaps they’re using Rhode Island’s governorship — the chief executive office of a state that has been mired in stagnation and controversy for way too long — as a stepping stone for national political ambitions.

Either option suggests a state for sale whose people will either have to tuck their empty pockets back in or brush the footprints off each other’s backs when the governor’s done with us.

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Following in Connecticut’s Regressive Footsteps

As Rhode Island’s Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo attempts to squeak out victory for a second term, we would do well to keep in mind the Democrat governor of our neighboring state, Dannel Malloy, who managed to accomplish just that, and with some of the same personnel.  A recent Wall Street Journal editorial gives some such food for thought:

Governor Dannel Malloy’s eight-year experiment in public-union governance saw income grow by a meager 1.5% for the year, well below Vermont (2.1%). The state even trailed Maine (2.7%) and Rhode Island (2.4%), which are usually the New England laggards. …

Lest you think this was a one-year anomaly, we looked at the personal income figures for every year since 2011. That’s the year Mr. Malloy took office, and the state rebounded well from the recession with 4.9% income growth, the best in New England.

It has been downhill from there. In personal income growth, Connecticut was 49th out of 50 states in 2012, 37th in 2013, 39th in 2014 and 2015, and 33rd in 2016. The consistently poor performance, especially relative to its regional neighbors, suggests that the causes are bad economic policies, not the business cycle or a downturn in a specific industry.

That stinging reference to Rhode Island, as one of two typical “New England laggards” ought to be a warning sign.  For one thing, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) shows Maine making huge progress.

More importantly, though, if the editors are correct and Connecticut’s problems are a consequence of policy, they brought not just a decrease, but a fall from grace — to almost no wage growth if dividends and government transfers are taken out of the equation. Can a state that’s already considered a typical laggard really afford a similar slide?

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Where the Unexpected Windfalls Go

In preparation for my weekly spot with John DePetro, this afternoon, I revisited Katherine Gregg’s Providence Journal article about the 7.5% in raises (actually 7.7%, compounded) state employees under Council 94 are expected to receive as part of a deal with Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo.  Raimondo, you may have heard, is facing a tough election this year.

These paragraphs jump out:

… the events at Council 94 union headquarters coincided with the announcement by the Raimondo administration that year-to-date revenue collections are running $46.5 million ahead of the estimates adopted at the state’s official Revenue Estimating Conference last November, on which Governor Raimondo’s $9.3 billion budget proposal was based.

A statement issued by the Department of Revenue said: “The major contributors to this surplus are personal income tax revenues, $43.6 million more than expected; estate and transfer tax revenues, $5.3 million above expectations; departmental receipts revenues, $4.5 million more than expected; and public utilities gross earnings tax revenues, $5.4 million ahead of estimates.” A few smaller sources of revenue fell short of projections, yielding the net surplus of $46.5 million.

Gregg notes that the new raises will be competing with the pleas of other special interest groups in their annual “more money” dance (which, admittedly, sometimes means more than a budgeted reduction).

But have you noticed that an unexpected increase in revenue is never cited as an opportunity to lower tax rates?  To the extent that it comes up, reduced taxes are typically handled in such a way as to make a special interest out of taxpayers, as with the specific elimination of the car tax.

In any event, time will tell whether Raimondo’s bid for the labor vote creates enough of a boost to save her job.  Valley Breeze publisher Tom Ward is skeptical of her chances, generally:

My take on it: There is no amount of money that will save her candidacy. The unfixable UHIP that continues to cost taxpayers more millions, the now-late and already unpopular tolls that create a new budget shortage, the “scooping” of energy conservation monies – and now, grabbing 911 emergency funds for God knows what. She owns all of it! She will lose a two-way race soundly, and needs to keep independents like Joe Trillo in the race to save her.

We’ll see.  The thing with full ballots is that a candidate can win with a small plurality, as Rhode Islanders keep learning… to our detriment.

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