One of the most objectionable schemes of government union collective bargaining process, which excessively drives up the cost of government for taxpayers, in ways or at levels that do not exist in the private sector, is being paid for not working.
The grotesque incongruity of some of the highest per-mile infrastructure spending and some of the worst roads and bridges in the country.
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, this week, was about the governor’s decisions about labor legislation, abortion, and the new education commissioner.
Wow, has our report shaken up the status quo! We have done the research, and we have connected the dots. The number one driver of the Ocean State’s declining population and jobs numbers – the high property taxes we all pay – can now be directly connected to the excessive costs of government, as mandated by government union collective bargaining agreements.
Now, we are asking your support to help us spread the word.
The evergreen-contracts-for-teachers bill seems to have been the last stone of realization for Erika Sanzi, raising the question about which of the three possible decisions she’ll make.
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, this week, was about the likely future of legislation supporting organized labor and promoting abortion, as well as the governor’s chances of spinning her performance for state and national consumption.
At $888 per year for each of Rhode Island’s 1 million residents, a family of four is paying over $3,500 annually for excessive compensation deals for government workers, while the basic needs of their own families are being ignored by politicians.
With almost two-thirds of these excessive costs being heaped upon municipal taxpayers, the report further estimates that property taxes could be reduced by 25% if more reasonable, market-based collective bargaining agreements were negotiated.
The hearing on two extremist abortion bills is suddenly posted in Senate Judiciary just days after a new, scientific poll shows that 77% of Rhode Island voters oppose them.
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, this week, was about the Wall Street Journal turning on Gina and the cost of unions and the legislation they inspire.
With the third highest property taxes in the country, a major encumbrance within an overall anti-taxpayer and anti-business climate that has dropped Rhode Island into bottom-10 rankings in a number of critical national indexes, the excessive costs of collectively bargained government services can be directly linked to this statewide problem.
Being so enmeshed in Rhode Island policy and politics, while also following national news and commentary, I always find it to be like a crossing of the streams when the state becomes part of the national narrative. Here’s Rhode Island’s entry into the national conversation about “free” college, via a Grace Gottschling report on CampusReform, under the headline, “RI Gov. pushes for ‘free’ college… with $200 million deficit”:
All graduating high school students, regardless of family income, are eligible for RI Promise and non-citizen residents are also eligible. It is unclear if this proposed expansion to include Rhode Island College, the four-year state school, would also allow non-citizen residents to be eligible. According to the RI Promise website, individuals are eligible if they are Rhode Island residents and qualify for in-state tuition. Rhode Island is one of two states in the nation that allows individual college Boards of Regents to decide whether to offer in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.
Campus Reform reached out to the governor’s office to confirm whether illegal immigrants would be eligible for free, four-year college under the proposed expansion, but did not hear back in time for publication.
Sometimes it renews one’s sense of the insanity of Rhode Island governance to presumptively see it through the eyes of those who live elsewhere. Perhaps increased coverage by the Boston Globe will mean more RI-story pickups at lower-tier publications like CampusReform.
Although the state’s rank stayed the same, this month was not a good month for the state on the Center’s Jobs & Opportunity Index. Rhode Island remains last in New England at 47th place in the country. Employment was down another 521 people from the first-reported number for February, and the labor force dropped 1,234.
Happy Easter from everyone at the Center to you and your family! We hope you had a great holiday weekend.
We wish we had better news to deliver. Unfortunately, the employment situation in Rhode Island is getting worse, bucking the national trend. While state politicians crow each year about not implementing broad new taxes, the unfortunate truth is that by nickle-and-diming residents and by not implementing aggressive reforms Rhode Island will continue to lose ground, nationally.
Who does the Rhode Island General Assembly really work for? Too often, the people of our state are left voiceless as special interest dominate the conversation. Recently, the Ocean State Current broke a major story that ignited media coverage across the state. In H5662 and Whom Rhode Island Representatives Represent, Research Director Justin Katz, uncovers a key admission from the political class.
During the March 11th Tiverton Town Council meeting, a member of the General Assembly admitted that he put forward the bill at the request of Speaker of the House, without regard to the cost to the town he represents for the state firefighters union.
Don’t wait, you can catch the video on the Current by clicking the link here. You can also find the followup here.
In the coming weeks, the Center will be releasing a major report on the cost of collective bargaining in the Ocean State. This will be the longest and most in-depth research project the Center has ever undertaken on any topic. We invite you to be on the lookout for this critical report.
I’ve got an op-ed in today’s Washington Times, about Rhode Island’s own connection with the college-entrance bribery scandal:
When Rhode Islanders heard that the women’s tennis coach of the state’s public university had been arrested in connection with the national bribery for admission scandal, many must have said, “Wait, what?” Students can get an excellent education at the University of Rhode Island, and it’s certainly an affordable option, but it isn’t exactly an institution for which the nation’s rich and famous would have to pay the sort of premium that might attract the FBI’s attention.
When they learned the details, locals’ reaction was probably something more like, “How very Rhode Island.”
This paragraph is probably the key takeaway for Rhode Islanders:
Rhode Island’s leaders are like the parents who’ve bribed their children’s way into institutions of higher education that were well beyond their merit. Both cases exhibit an implicit insecurity and a desire for people under their care or authority to be something they’re not. In contrast, the initial questions that political leaders and parents ask should be: Who are you really, and how can you achieve your full potential, being who you are? With that more-human perspective as the starting point, parents might not set their children up for embarrassing failure (or criminal prosecution).
Read the whole thing, as they say.
On March 19, the federal district court in Providence dismissed the American Trucking Associations’ lawsuit against Rhode Island’s truck-only tolls, heeding the State of Rhode Island’s legal argument that their truck-only tolls are not a federal but a state matter and within the state’s purview to assess because they are actually taxes. (Wait, what?? Since when? From the beginning and all through the toll battle, Governor Gina Raimondo and state leaders repeatedly told us that tolls are a “fee”, a “user fee“, an apple – anything but a tax.)
At that point, the ATA had two choices: file the suit in state court or move to keep the suit at the federal level by appealing the decision. They just issued a statement indicating that they have chosen the latter course, stating, in part
Yesterday, the American Trucking Associations, along with three motor carriers representing the industry, appealed last week’s decision by the federal district court in Rhode Island to dismiss their challenge to Rhode Island’s RhodeWorks truck-only toll scheme, on procedural grounds.
In its challenge, ATA contends that Rhode Island’s truck-only toll scheme is unconstitutional because it discriminates against interstate trucking companies and impedes the flow of interstate commerce. In its March 19, 2019 decision dismissing the case, the district court did not address the merits of that constitutional claim. Instead, it held only that ATA’s challenge could not proceed in federal court.
ATA President and CEO Chris Spear went on to underscore, “…we look forward to establishing the unconstitutionality of Rhode Island’s discriminatory tolls on the merits.”
[Monique has been a contributor to the Ocean State Current and Anchor Rising for over ten years, was volunteer spokesperson for the citizens advocacy anti-toll group StopTollsRI.com for three+ years and began working for the Rhode Island Trucking Association as a staff member in September of 2017.]
Businesses should be applauded for hiring those most in need of work…not punished with more taxes, and certainly not made out to be the bad guy. It is misguided to think that if employees are not covered by their employer’s insurance plan, full or part time, and instead are enrolled in Medicaid, then the business should be punished.
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, this week, was about the governor’s focus on pre-school and post-secondary-school (avoiding the real problem) as well as the question of Deloitte’s continued employment by the state.
If the public is supposed to track the actions of our representative government using the news media’s reporting, why does it seem journalists’ phrase policy in the government’s preferred way?
Existing state law (General Law 44-18-18) specifies a “trigger” for a sales tax rate reduction to 6.5% (from its current level of 7.0%!) if certain internet sales tax collection criteria are met. The rationale for this law was to relieve Rhode Islanders of the additional burden of imposing a sales tax on a broader range of purchased goods, by easing the tax.
Edward Siedle is wondering, in Forbes, whether the State of Rhode Island will ever be able to stop investing in Point Judith Capital, which our Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo founded, even as it loses money:
The pension was scheduled to exit Raimondo’s fund in 2016 but the firm, supposedly exercising its discretion under a secret agreement the state supposedly signed, unilaterally extended the life of the investment in 2017 and again in 2018.
In late 2018, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner surprised pension stakeholders by announcing a new reason for delaying termination of the investment yet another year. Magaziner disclosed, for the first time, the 2006 secret agreement the pension signed with Point Judith allowed Raimondo’s fund to hold onto state money another year if 80 percent of investors agree.
The very fact that an investment, shrouded in secrecy and foisted on the state pension by the now-Governor, has continued to lose money for the pension and pay money to Raimondo for the past thirteen years—with no end in sight—should demand enhanced disclosure and public scrutiny, in my opinion.
Of course, the line from the Eagles’ “Hotel California” echoed in this post’s title comes to mind. But the situation seems more broadly representative of the crony, insider system that Raimondo has brought to full flower during her time in government. A relative handful of people reap rewards while the public loses, and only the people benefiting are able to exit the relationship.
Sponsors and proponents of the two abortion bills pending on Smith Hill can easily prove their critics wrong. Just add one sentence to the bills.
In early December, I pointed to a story about the state taxing authority going after funeral homes to tax urns and prayer cards. The State of Rhode Island was hitting these small businesses with bills for back taxes on products that had always been handled as tax exempt.
As I looked through the tax changes in Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s budgets for the past few years over the weekend, a connection became clear, with an important lesson:
- In fiscal year 2017, the governor called for two new revenue agents for field audits and three new revenue officers for collections, with an estimated increase in revenue of $1,793,806. The General Assembly accepted this proposal, but assumed a net budget impact of $3 million, meaning that the actual revenue collected would be higher in order to pay the five new employees, so actual revenue would be around $3.5 million.
- In fiscal year 2018, the governor called for two more revenue agents and two new data analysts who were supposed to generate another $750,000. The General Assembly accepted this proposal but assumed a $2 million increase in revenue.
- In her current budget, the governor wants to add a lawyer and case management system to the collections unit, to generate another $750,000.
Going after small businesses for back taxes nobody ever told them to collect is what this effort looks like. After the changes in fiscal years 2017 and 2018, the state had nine new employees with an implied mandate to find $5.5 million in new tax revenue.
To the extent anybody even notices these new hires, the impression is that they’ll be going after scofflaws for money they are somehow hiding from the state. There may be some of that, but what the funeral homes are experiencing is the effect of the state hiring people with a monetary target and siccing them on the people of Rhode Island.
Every year, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revises its numbers for states’ employment statistics. Those results will be released tomorrow, but Rhode Island’s Department of Labor and Training (DLT) typically releases a limited press release the day before. As of this writing, the DLT’s Web site does not include the press release that went out to journalists and other interested subscribers.
In a word, the results are not good. The BLS revised data back to 2014, and the DLT only released round numbers back to December 2017, but in the name of informing people at Internet speed, here’s a preliminary chart comparing the revision to the originally reported numbers.
Some things to note:
- 5,300 employed Rhode Islanders disappeared.
- The workforce dropped by 4,800.
- That notched unemployment to 4%.
- The better part of all the gains we’d thought we’d made during 2018 evaporated.
For political context, I’ve marked the month that Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s first budget went into effect. Throughout most of 2018, the reported numbers were sufficiently good to open up the possibility that the governor’s policies simply had a lag in their effectiveness. Now, that seems to be less plausible.
From the time she took office, employment in the state has grown at a slower pace than it had been previously — by half. From December 2014 through December 2018, Rhode Island employment increased 0.77% per year. From the time the state hit bottom, around December 2011, through December 2014, the growth rate was 1.42% per year.
Perhaps relying on incorrect numbers, Rhode Islanders didn’t change direction with the last election. One test for the governor — and a sign of her intentions — will be whether she makes some adjustments or doubles down on her top-down, progressive, crony-capitalist approach.
The National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board (TRB) recently met to assess whether changes to truck size and weight (TS & W) should be implemented. The nation’s scholars, engineers and infrastructure “wonks” came away from the conference with a consensual determination that there was not enough data to support changes and that further studies were needed before any revisions were made to either decrease or increase the allowable dimensions and weight on America’s highways and bridges. In fact, the group spent significant time developing a plan for future research on the TS & Weight issue because there are information gaps and inconsistencies in studies.
So why are DOT leaders around the country yelling “fire in the theater” as they pin the trucking industry with the ills of our infrastructure?
The state of the State of Rhode Island is not good. Even as the rising national economic tide has lifted ships in all states, when compared with the rest of the nation, our Ocean State is severely lagging, and is in danger of sinking further behind if progressive policies continue to be implemented.
Perhaps no indicator more appropriately demonstrates the failure of the leftist status quo, than does the near-certainty that Rhode Island will lose one of its precious House seats in the U.S. Congress. The persistent jokes of family and friends “moving out of state” have now tragically manifested themselves into the harsh reality that our state is not competitive enough to see population growth on par with the rest of the country.
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, this week, was about the many new fees and taxes in the governor’s budget, a progressive’s alleged embezzlement, the significance of an abortion poll, and the multiple candidates for RIGOP chair.
Along with her budget’s request to increase fees for beaches and Rhode Island parks, Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo is rolling out the usual message about “investing” in our state:
“Our beaches and parks are such a special part of who we are as Rhode Islanders, and we need to preserve them for future generations,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “The study DEM commissioned recently makes clear that we’re not doing enough now. It’s critical that we commit to long-term investments in our parks and beaches. Let’s make sure our kids have the same opportunities that we did.”
The study noted that Rhode Island exhibits high park use and low investment compared with the rest of the nation – ranking 1st in visits per park acre but 47th in state spending per visit. The study calls on the State to make a strategic, sustained, long-term investment to increase the self-sufficiency and economic potential of the park system, protect infrastructure, enhance programs, and bolster operations and staffing.
The missing statistic in that summary is anything gauging Rhode Island’s tax burden. Especially in the messaging of our current governor, everything is an “investment.” The problem is that we’re already making those investments. We’re just not getting much for them, whether in terms of infrastructure, economic development, or education.
Another budgetary favorite of Raimondo’s emphasizes the point: budget scoops. When the governor’s office makes a regular practice of “scooping up” money from restricted funds, which are often driven by fees of one sort of another, it sends the message that it’s all really about finding new sources of revenue.
In other words, she’s actually looking for investments in more of the same old insider deals that have drained money away from things Rhode Islanders actually value.
A recent Providence Journal editorial highlights yet another indication that the administration of Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo isn’t exactly exhibiting a casual competence when it comes to the basic operations of state government. This time, the problem is the company with which the state has contracted to ensure that people in need are able to make it to their medical appointments, and the House Oversight Committee, led by Representative Patricia Serpa (D, West Warwick), is looking into it:
It has not escaped Ms. Serpa’s attention that there is a pattern of problems in state contracting. For many years, the executive branch has had trouble drafting strong contracts (without requiring an abundance of costly change orders), making sure services are properly implemented, and providing sufficient oversight once services have commenced. At the same time, the Raimondo administration has dramatically increased the number of public-relations people on its payroll.
Public-relations people on the payroll is just the start. Apparently, the governor also has plenty of time for things like this:
Gov. Gina Raimondo is all-in on a statewide bag ban and past opponents of the concept aren’t objecting.
Raimondo gave her support Feb. 14 at the final meeting of the Task Force to Tackle Plastics, an advisory board she created last July with the mission of cutting plastic pollution in the state.
That’s progressives (like socialists) for you: trying to save the world while letting those who rely on their competence for day-to-day operations suffer. The problem, at its bottom, is that people are willing to pay for certain services from government (for themselves and on behalf of others), but not so much for insider excesses and progressive schemes. So, to make way for the excesses and schemes, government has to scrimp on the things for which people are willing to pay so there’s money left over for the things for which they probably wouldn’t.
And at the end of the day, ensuring that the medical transportation vehicles run on time isn’t all that exciting.
As the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity wrote after the State of the State address, the assault on individual and Second Amendment constitutional rights under the Raimondo administration is worse than expected. Her new scheme is one more example of the Rhode Island political class giving into the far-left Progressive agenda. Rhode Island families deserve to be able to exercise their God given right to self-defense without excessive government interference.
Instead of protecting and preserving our individual freedoms, the Governor is expanding the attacks and infringements on those seeking to exercise their constitutional right to defend themselves. Now is the time to demand better government, not more restrictions on honest citizens. Click Here to sign a petition demanding exactly that from our elected officials.
This “crystal ball” approach of justifying government infringement because something “might” happen must end!