The end of the June brought the usual confusion and back room dealing in the General Assembly’s closing days, but an important bill was passed without any real public discussion.
Ethan Shorey of The Valley Breeze is having a hard time getting an answer from Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo about a charitable dental effort that the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) shut down this year:
On June 28, Gov. Gina Raimondo sent out a mass email denouncing Trumpcare, calling it “immoral” and saying it would bring “disastrous ramifications” for “Rhode Island residents at risk of losing health care coverage.” The use of the word immoral got me to wondering about Raimondo’s thoughts on the Community College of Rhode Island’s decision to end the Mission of Mercy, an annual volunteer event giving some of Rhode Island’s poorest residents access to free dental care. …
It’s now July 12 and I still haven’t heard back from [spokeswoman Catherine] Rolfe. Perhaps my email was lost again?
Shorey’s background article gives the details. CCRI didn’t technically kill the program. The college just kicked the volunteers out of the campus’s dental facility and told them they’d have to set up in a field house, promising to kick in $10,000 toward the estimated $70,000 cost of setting up a mobile clinic each year.
CCRI may have a perfectly reasonable explanation for the decision, but it’s difficult to imagine one, and it’s impossible if government officials won’t even attempt to explain. Shorey’s right, too, to wonder how rhetoric about reform of broad national health policy can be called “immoral” for removing mandates for insurance coverage and seeking to reform a welfare program when Raimondo’s extended administration directly removed access to actual health care.
ADDENDUM (4:01 p.m. 7/13/17):
I’m struggling to understand Ethan Shorey’s complaint about this post, but he seems to want some clarification to be made in this space.
His apparent insinuation in the text quoted above is that if one considers Trumpcare “immoral,” then the term could reasonably be seen as applying to CCRI’s treatment of Mission of Mercy. This observation, of itself, does not tell the reader anything about Shorey’s own moral view, although one might infer from his attempts to get a comment from the governor that he finds the Mission of Mercy issue less ambiguous, if anything.
In paraphrasing Shorey’s sentiment at the end of my post, I kept the same structure, only adding more details about what partisans like Raimondo assert is “immoral” about Trumpcare.
Perhaps Shorey is worried that people might think he agrees with my broader views, which aren’t part of this post. That would explain the “we both know” language in our tweeted exchange. If that’s the case, I apologize for any detrimental effect that my approving citation of his work has on his social standing.
For my weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WADK 1540 AM show, last week, the topics were the the Mattiello-Ruggerio handshake, Raimondo’s bad negotiating position, and the unions’ control.
As far as I can tell, the one interesting thing that Rhode Island’s Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo said of interest at her press conference yesterday was that she intends to find the money to fund her “free tuition” policy at CCRI:
Raimondo told a press conference she is not exactly sure where she will find the $2.75 million-plus needed, at minimum, to launch the free-tuition pilot program, but she voiced confidence that she would be able to do so within the $8.9-billion year-old budget cap in which the state is currently operating.
One hopes some lawyer or other on the governor’s staff is aware that money is only part of the question. Our state’s constitution still vests the General Assembly with the authority to make law, not her, and if nothing else, her campaigning has made clear that this is a new policy.
Governors are not without authority, of course; readers may recall that Lincoln Chafee signed us on to ObamaCare and health benefits exchanges via executive order. So, Raimondo may be able to get away with this, if only because the politics of actively stopping her would be much stickier than the politics of not creating a new program in the first place.
That said, the rule of law is already a problem in Rhode Island, so causing further damage to it should do the governor political harm, if she goes in that direction.
In case anybody missed it, I’d like to highlight the following item from this week’s Political Scene in the Providence Journal:
Gov. Gina Raimondo has a new $61,751 staffer: RISD grad Jon Gourlay. His newly created job title: “Creative Manager — Governor’s Communications Office.” His actual role: producing web videos for Governor Raimondo, who is expected to run for reelection next year.
To some extent, her spokesman, Mike Raia, has a point when he says, “The way people get their information has changed, and elected leaders need to generate creative content to break through on social media and other digital and curated platforms.” The content of the videos will be the decisive tell, though.
If Rhode Islanders get short instructional videos about interacting with government or more-catchy-than-usual public service announcements, the governor’s office will have an argument. However, if we get more self-promotional trash like this, then the “21st century constituency” stuff will have proven to be just spin.
I know which way I’d bet, especially given what appears to have been a dud of a press conference from the governor, yesterday. Is Raimondo so thoroughly without political chips that she’s got nothing but words to salvage a budget containing her single biggest emphasis of the past year? She just doesn’t seem to get how to govern or use leverage and communications to bring about real action, so why would her new employee’s videos be dedicated to that purpose?*
* Before she actually became governor, Raimondo’s success with pension reform would have seemed to suggest otherwise, based on the “Truth in Numbers” campaign. As time goes on, though, that issue is looking more like a one-hit-wonder achievement, perhaps founded more on the promise that her mild reform would make the mammoth problem of pension funding go away. The clock is ticking toward the date at which the fallacy will be proven.
Isn’t that just so Rhode Island… the minute you finish building something, the blue sign with political promotion appears.
I guess I have to put up with it out of gratitude that the town and state governments still allow me to build small structures on my own property.
For my weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WADK 1540 AM show, last week, the topics were the PawSox, Montanaro, the Budget, and “free” tuition.
You may have seen the huge, yellow tarp-covered generator that has been parked on the side of Route 95 north just past Route 4. It’s been the cause of lots of rubber-necking. Then came the news a couple of days ago that it had been pulled over by RIDOT while traveling and ordered not to advance because it is very heavy – 560,000 pounds.
John Tassoni, speaking for the company that is moving the generator, was on the WPRO Morning News with Gene Valicenti this morning. And he shared some eye-opening information about how the generator came to be side-lined.
Seriously… I really don’t want to pick these fights, but what good is reporting on federal health care legislation that gives the opposite impression from the truth?
For my weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WADK 1540 AM show, last week, the topics were Lincoln Chafee’s recent commentary, Gina Raimondo’s budget negotiations, and a state employee takes advantage of us all.
For my weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WADK 1540 AM show, last week, the topics were Mayor Fung’s first forays and government spending out of control.
Governor Raimondo’s executive order “reaffirming” progressives’ environmentalist agenda will have a net-negative effect on the environment.
Perhaps nothing is more telling about whether Americans see a state as providing sufficient opportunities for prosperity and a better quality of life than whether or not they are flocking to or fleeing from its borders. No other measure paints a more realistic picture of whether or not a particular state is an ideal place to raise a family or build a career than how people “vote with their feet.”
At the Center, we know that that the high levels of taxation and over-regulation imposed in the ever-growing state budget is the main culprit in causing Rhode Island’s stagnant performance.
To be fair, the flap over the General Assembly’s requested increase is at least partly a misunderstanding, but it points to a more outrageous issue with state budgeting.
Catching up on my podcast file on the way home from dropping children off at school, I listened to RI House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan talking to Tara Granahan on WPRO last Wednesday. Among various topics, they discussed my estimate of net new hires under the Raimondo Administration, emphasizing the $30 million cost in salaries.
Combining that with Monique’s post earlier about the the possibility of 100 new hires in the Raimondo budget for next year makes clear the importance of a reminder: Employees don’t just get salaries; they get benefits, too.
For an ongoing project, I’ve estimated that state workers’ benefits are, on average, 72% of their salaries. So, if we want to know the cost to the state of new hires in Governor Raimondo’s first two budget years, we would have to add to the $30,639,475 in new salaries another $21,953,184 in benefits.
If you don’t have a calculator handy, that’s a total of $52,592,659.
For some perspective, according to WPRI’s Ted Nesi, the final cost to taxpayers of the 38 Studios debacle was a one-time tab of $38.64 million. That’s much less than the $52.59 million in annual employee costs from the state government’s expansion of its workforce over the past two years alone.
Both the proven failure of a budget-centric approach and Governor Raimondo’s dismal public policy track record should give the General Assembly real pause when considering her reported request for one hundred new state hires – and other initiatives, past and prospective.
We know that that the high levels of taxation and over-regulation imposed for the sake of the state budget are the primary culprit in causing the Ocean State’s stagnant performance. Put another way, overspending by a government that primarily seeks to perpetuate and grow itself, actually works against the best-interests of the very people it is supposed to be serving. Instead of seeking to grow prosperity, government seeks to grow itself.
For my weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WADK 1540 AM show, last week, the topics were Speaker Mattiello’s car tax plan, Governor Raimondo’s Playboy play, and the game of getting a stadium… or anything else from Rhode Island government.
Rhode Island’s top politicians seem more inclined to frighten and gin up Rhode Islanders than allow us to thrive of our own initiative.
I was on Tara Granahan’s 630 AM/99.7 FM radio show on Thursday to discuss my dip into new hires by Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo.
Tuition, taxes, energy, the way to fix poverty, and the need to enjoy your state.
Despite the false hopes expressed by lawmakers based solely on a reduced unemployment rate, Rhode Island families are hurting. The Ocean State suffers under the worst business climate, and 48th rank on our Center’s Job’s & Opportunity Index. Furthermore, Rhode Island was the only state in New England to see its labor force decline in size in recent years, as hundreds of thousands of people have chosen to leave our state since 2004. This is not a recovery.
For my weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WADK 1540 AM show, this week, the topics were Governor Raimondo’s campaign donations from PawSox interests and the mayoral feud along the Providence-Cranston line.
Below is a statement that StopTollsRI.com (for which I am spokesperson) placed on its Facebook page last night. The R.I. Trucking Association and the American Trucking Association have announced that they would wait until all 30+ toll gantries were installed before they would challenge the legality of truck tolls in court. This alarming development first came to light Thursday night in testimony before House Finance. See Mike Collins’ testimony starting at approximately minute 1:52:40.
Tolls have taken a dangerous turn for Rhode Island residents and taxpayers. It is now imperative that state legislators and General Assembly leadership step in for the good of the state and end the truck toll program.
A couple of days ago, Rhode Island House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan (R, Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick) was complaining to Tara Granahan on 630AM/99.7FM that Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s administration was dragging its heels on providing Morgan with information about new hires since the start of her administration.
As Tara and Patricia were saying on air, that should be an easy request for the administration to fulfill. Filter all employees to the appropriate hire dates, and there you go.
Unfortunately, I don’t have access to that tool, but for some overall sense of what the response will look like when it comes, I visited the state’s transparency site and downloaded the payroll for the relevant years. Note that this data is by fiscal year, and the fiscal year 2017 dollar totals are projected “annual” pay and may vary in actuality, what with overtime and that sort of thing. Also note that this is the entire state government, so it captures everything from courts to colleges.
My method was to search for full names (including middle initial) that did or didn’t appear in each subsequent year of payroll, which isn’t perfect. If the state for some reason had a typo on a name (skipping a middle initial) or if somebody got married, or something, these numbers will be a little off, but it does give a rough picture.
Treating fiscal year 2016 as Raimondo’s first (that’d be July 2015 through June 2016), the state government has added 458 more employees than it lost during the two years of budgets that were implemented under this governor. Those new employees account for an additional $30,639,475 in annual pay.
Losing the PawSox seems mainly to be a worry of RI’s decision-making elites, but the best thing Rhode Island could do is to make it clear that it has decided to get back to basics and get itself onto a better path.
Should the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of Rhode Island families be limited by an arbitrary, politically-driven budget number at the bottom of a spreadsheet? Unfortunately, our state is now suffering the consequences of such an approach, fueled by the progressive-left’s big-spending agenda.
The GoLocalProv Business Team has a great catch related to the deal that Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s Commerce Corp. just made to bribe online printing company Vistaprint to open facilities in the state:
The Raimondo Administration on Wednesday announced that Vistaprint and the potential of 125 new jobs are coming to Rhode Island over the next three years. But, RI Commerce admitted in a phone interview that they were unaware that one of Vistaprint’s competitor Moo.com is already located in Lincoln, Rhode Island. Moo.com is a design driven competitor who has been building its business in RI since 2009.
This discovery gets to the heart of the problem when government decides to be a player in the business world. An investor picks a company and has no ethical quandary with his or her preferring that company over others. A representative government respectful of individual rights and the free market isn’t supposed to do that.
State Commerce Secretary Stefan Prior tells GoLocal that Moo.com is free to apply for incentives, too, but what if there’s another Rhode Island company competing in this space? Or, to take the next, easy step, what about other companies that aren’t in that particular type of business? Ultimately, they’re all competing for the same dollars, employees, and so on, and taxpayers can’t subsidize every business.
This entire approach to economic development is presumptuous and a shortsighted reach for the headlines. In the GoLocal article, Raimondo points directly to the problem when she says:
Governor Gina Raimondo said about the announcement of Vistaprint “The economy is growing, and today’s announcement means more good-paying jobs for Rhode Islanders. I’m thrilled that Vistaprint Corporate has chosen Rhode Island for its national sales office. Rhode Island provides exactly what Vistaprint Corporate was looking for-access to talent, a high quality of life, fiscally responsible incentives to make our state competitive during its search and long-term potential for growth.” (Emphasis added.)
That can’t be true. If it were, the state wouldn’t have to bribe the company. A better economic development plan would be to make it true by lowering taxes and regulations.
The massive budget shortfall is proof that the state government’s corporate welfare strategy has failed. Rhode Island’s current corporate tax-credit economic development strategy is highly inefficient as it creates relatively few jobs at an extremely high cost per job to taxpayers. This targeted ‘advanced industry’ approach does little if anything to improve the overall business climate, which is necessary if organic entrepreneurial growth is to occur on its own. A 3.0% sales tax would disproportionately help low-income families.
For my weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WADK 1540 AM show, the topics were the Democrats’ health care scare mongering and the early political campaigning of two Republicans.