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HUD-In-The-News Confirms Critics of Both RhodeMap RI and Today’s PolitiFact RI Rating

… the subject of a column that I just posted to R.I. Taxpayer’s website. Here are the first couple of paragraphs.

A browse through HUD-in-the-news items turns up some interesting and instructive items. First of all, there are several instances of HUD cracking down on municipalities or other public authorities who have taken HUD money but failed to comply with the requirements that accompanied it. Certainly, on the one hand, this is as it should be. Government dollars must be spent as stipulated. On the other, it belies the assurances of advocates of RhodeMap RI that there is nothing to fear about the plan. Significant portions of it would almost certainly have to be implemented with HUD money, at which point, HUD would suddenly have a great deal of power and authority over local land use laws and property rights. Let these HUD crack downs elsewhere be an object lesson, accordingly, to both cities and towns in Rhode Island and to state and local officials who would consider accepting HUD monies, whether under the rubric of RhodeMap RI or not. Be prepared to comply with HUD’s requirements or don’t take the money.

And the latter is exactly what officials in the coincidentally named city of Hudson, OH, did less than two weeks ago, in our next interesting HUD-in-the-news item.

By the way, did anyone else notice that HUD’s letter to Westchester County contains the word “roadmap”??? Towards the bottom of the first page.

… HUD provided the county with a roadmap to coming into compliance …

A HUD “Roadmap”. “RhodeMap RI”. Isn’t that a little too similar to be a coincidence? Or do I need to be talked off the conspiracy ledge?

Death by “Let Them Eat Cake”

I bought a basic cell phone for my grandmother, last night.  As the clerk in the Massachusetts store was adding the phone to my family plan, he remarked, “Wow, you pay a lot of taxes!  Oh, you’re in Rhode Island.”

With that anecdote in mind, this morning, I’d suggest that Rhode Islanders should be wary of advice from an economist who admits that (according to Kate Bramson of the Providence Journal) she’s “puzzled” that Rhode Island’s largest sector, education and healthcare, “is failing to enjoy the growth it’s seeing in the region and the country”:

“…  it seems like there’s this party going on in education and health services,” she continued. “And Rhode Island is not at that party, so I’m not sure why that’s not happening in this state.”

Could it have anything to do with Rhode Island’s heavy regulations and taxes, maybe?  Could it have anything to do with the fact that Rhode Island leads the country in health insurance mandates?  Could it have anything to do with Rhode Island’s teachers’ unions being toward the front of the national pack in their power, especially in political activity and the resources going to the union and union members?

Also on the front page of today’s Providence Journal is a Jennifer Bogdan article about Governor-elect Gina Raimondo’s visit to the White House.  Although the visit, alongside other governors, was mainly a photo-op and meet-and-greet, Bogdan writes, “There were also a few moments for cake.”

Raimondo brought the president a slice of Death by Chocolate Cake from Gregg’s restaurant.  Isn’t that just perfect?

While Rhode Island is failing to join the economic party, the woman who will soon be governor is bringing cake to the president and kicking off her big economic strategy:

“My focus all day … my constant question was, ‘What can you do to help get Rhode Island back to work?’ ” Raimondo said. “I’m going to be very aggressive about knocking on doors.”

In other words, her economic strategy is to be a salesperson, not to change the underlying problems.  That won’t work.  The problem isn’t that business people around the country don’t know Rhode Island is here. It’s that they know what Rhode Island is all about.  It’s all about cake for insiders and shackles for people who want to bring their own little circles of the economy in a personalized direction.

Decreasing taxes, regulations, and mandates and allowing broad school choice would bring the economic party to Rhode Island, but anybody hoping that Raimondo is going to go in the direction of freedom over insiderdom is probably going to be disappointed.

Dangerous Complacency at Rhode Island League of Cities & Towns Towards RhodeMap RI?

A friend forwarded me an interesting and alarming e-mail thread with regard to RhodeMap RI. Below is the text of two of the e-mails, which went out this afternoon, followed by the author and his title. On Thursday morning, the State Planning Council will vote on a proposed Economic Development Plan which largely incorporates the […]

RhodeMap RI: Bipartisan Group of Legislators Calls for Delay; Cite Its “near-total lack of an economic development focus”

The following statement was received via e-mail this afternoon. Attached was a letter addressed to Kevin Flynn, Associate Director of the R.I. Division of Planning.

State Planning Division Faulted For Pursuing “Predetermined Result” With Little Economic Development Focus

Senators, Representatives To File Legislation To Correct Imbalance

State House, Nov 18 – A group of five Republican, Democrat and Independent legislators today called for a delay in approval of the hotly-criticized RhodeMap RI.

The legislators want to correct an imbalance that seems to exclude meaningful action to improve Rhode Island’s poor economic performance, something the State Planning Division has continually tried to characterize as the goal of the effort.

Frustrating Doggedness for a Strategy That Doesn’t Work

On one page of the Saturday Providence Journal Kate Bramson reported a “here we go again” story:

The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation paid $62,500 to the California-based Bridge Bank to keep The Corporate Marketplace current on a $3.75-million loan that the state guarantied in 2011 under a controversial state financial program.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Corporation is working with the company “to restructure the company’s financials and review all options,” with a goal of keeping the company “viable while minimizing exposure to taxpayers,” Commerce Corporation Executive Director Marcel A. Valois told The Providence Journal.

The North Kingstown company is one of four granted loan guaranties under the program that backed a $75-million bond sale to benefit former Red Sox star Curt Schilling’s video-game company.

Apparently, the big lesson that the state learned from 38 Studios was that the government shouldn’t hold companies to the job-creation benchmarks to which they pledged in order to get the money (and which were arguably the core selling point for the program in the first place).

Meanwhile, on another page of the same paper, Bramson reported on the wishlist of special arrangements that functionaries working on behalf of the state would like to put on the table to develop the land freed up through the I-Way project:

[Jan Brodie would] like no sales tax and no corporate taxes for projects built on [the land in Providence]. She’d like an “institutionalized , predictable” tax-stabilization agreement for city property taxes that would last at least 15 years…

She’d like some flexibility on the … obligation to pay back the bonds that were sold to … complete the final phase of the highway project. …

She wants an innovation fund…

Finally, she wants Governor-elect Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor-elect Jorge O. Elorza to “hit the road,” traveling outside Rhode Island to seek specific businesses that might locate here.

Rhode Islanders need to start laughing these people out of the room and insisting on the much simpler (and more-conducive-to-freedom) plan of eliminating and stabilizing taxes and regulations for everybody in the state, while stopping the practice of incurring debt on which the government later requires “flexibility.”

Question #4: In-State Employment Rate of URI Engineering Grads Does Not Justify $125 Million Tab for Taxpayers

This Tuesday, Rhode Island taxpayers will be asked if they are willing to pay an eye-opening $125 million, excluding interest, to construct a new building and renovate existing buildings at URI’s College of Engineering. Proponents claim it will improve Rhode Island’s workforce, but how many URI engineers are actually staying to work in the state, right now?

Latest on the Central Coventry Fire District Includes Threat by Governor’s Lawyers to Personally Sue Fire Board For Standing Up For Democracy

At the height of election fever, let’s not lose track of the latest developments in the disturbing situation involving the Central Coventry Fire District.

The following report, on “Central Coventry Citizens Taskforce for Fire Protection” letterhead and inclusive of two contact names and phone numbers, was sent out via e-mail this afternoon. It appears that at the Monday meeting and in other venues, Governor Chafee has had no compunction in carrying out the almost certainly unconstitutional order of the General Assembly to the taxpayers of the Central Coventry Fire District: – an order that could well come to every fire district in the state: No voting; just shut up and pay.

Progressive Policies Hurting Minorities

Looking at the brief report that the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity released, yesterday, showing some slices of employment data, something struck me about the numbers for labor force participation — that is, percentage of each demographic group that is either working or looking for work:

Notice that a larger percentage of black and Hispanic Rhode Islanders are either working or looking for work.  Inasmuch as the unemployment rate (i.e., those who are looking for jobs) is almost two times higher for blacks than the average and more than two times higher for Hispanics than the average, we can infer that the higher labor force participation rates for those groups result mainly from the unemployed.

That makes sense, of course, because the income levels for these minorities tend to be lower than the average, so their need for jobs is greater.  The gap between people’s need to work and their ability to find work is a humanitarian concern, but it’s also an indication of lost opportunity for our economy.

Here we see another indication of the harm that Rhode Island policies (and progressive policies more broadly) do to the productive class, no matter what race we’re talking about.  These Rhode Islanders want to exchange their productive effort and their talents for money.  Oppressive big-government policies make that exchange more difficult.  High tax rates remove money from the economy and reduce incentive to expand productive activity (both work and investment), and invasive regulations make it more difficult to engage in productive activity legally.

It’s not surprising that minority groups are most profoundly affected by a wrong-headed approach to government.  It is surprising, though, that the votes of different racial groups prove that they haven’t caught on to the abuse, yet.

Gina’s Quantum Position on Raising Taxes; Or, “Dual Nature” Doesn’t Just Describe Matter and Light

On Thursday, Gina Raimondo, democrat candidate for governor, held a press conference during which she accepted the endorsement of Planned Parenthood and expressed a desire to lift the ban in Rhode Island law on partial birth abortion. (Yes, to confirm, contrary to what she lied … er, broadly implied at the press conference, Allan Fung does not wish to change the parameters of Rhode Island’s abortion law, she does.)

This has created some controversy, as well it should, especially on the radio and social media.

On his radio show this morning on WPRO, John Loughlin took a bigger picture perspective to make the case that one of the mistakes candidate Raimondo made at her press conference Thursday was the strategic one of getting off message.

That’s probably true. But there are a couple of additional factors that come into play. Firstly, the General Treasurer is probably pleased to get her candidacy any kind of publicity, even if it doesn’t adhere to her campaign script. (Tomorrow’s episode: “Will She Take Communion???”, co-starring a vociferous cast of advocates, some in the ranks of the press, standing by to canonize her if the Catholic Church moves to bar her from communion.)

RI’s Bad Decisions and Burning Money Instead of Tobacco

My op-ed in today’s Providence Journal places the match of Rhode Island’s experience of the tobacco settlement money (a one-time-fix turned bad debt) on the pile of bad decisions that the state government has made in the past decade or so:

According to a review by ProPublica, Rhode Island has just refinanced some of the resulting debt, with the expectation that “the deal would shave $700 million off a $2.8 billion tab due on the bonds in 2052.” In that regard, it’s a bit like the state’s pension reform, which was marketed as salvation but merely shaved about $3 billion from $9 billion of unfunded liability.

The people who operate Rhode Island’s government are racking up quite a list of these liabilities.

RI’s Bad Decisions and Burning Money Instead of Tobacco

My op-ed in today’s Providence Journal places the match of Rhode Island’s experience of the tobacco settlement money (a one-time-fix turned bad debt) on the pile of bad decisions that the state government has made in the past decade or so:

According to a review by ProPublica, Rhode Island has just refinanced some of the resulting debt, with the expectation that “the deal would shave $700 million off a $2.8 billion tab due on the bonds in 2052.” In that regard, it’s a bit like the state’s pension reform, which was marketed as salvation but merely shaved about $3 billion from $9 billion of unfunded liability.

The people who operate Rhode Island’s government are racking up quite a list of these liabilities.

Illegal Alien Juveniles: And Rhode Island’s Total Rises to 148

Breitbart’s Tony Lee has obtained updated numbers from the United States’ Office of Refugee Resettlement as to the number of illegal alien juveniles released by the federal government for the period of July 7 to July 31 – July 7 being the last date for which we had those figures. The state by state breakdown indicates that Rhode Island’s total has risen from 129 to 148.

Our elected officials – those who support illegal immigration – have been acting as though this has been a completely unforeseen, one time wave of children, such as might be due to an earthquake, flood or other natural disaster.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

These children are being drawn here – are being sent here, more accurately – by the willful actions and inaction of our national leaders: 1.) more generally, the United States has substantially reduced its enforcement of the immigration laws currently on the books and 2.) more specifically, the action of the President of the United States, who has effectively turned on a beacon by making it clear that his administration is extremely reluctant to deport any illegal children who come here. (You don’t suppose word will get out about the data that backs this up, do you? Naw!)

It probably doesn’t hurt that the federal government has rolled out the red carpet for at least some of the illegal alien juveniles.

Accordingly, as things stand, there is no reason for this stream of illegal arrivals, nor the strain on public budgets nor the erosion of our sovereignty, to end.

The question now, closer to home, is, what is Governor Chafee doing to stem the tide of illegal aliens into Rhode Island and the corresponding stream of money out of state and local tax coffers? Has he offered objection to the federal government to the arrival in Rhode Island of these and any additional illegal alien juveniles, an action that would also help to address the larger problem by discouraging illegal immigration? If not, has Governor Chafee identified what he would like to see cut from budgets, both local and state, none of which have much leeway in the expenditure column, to pay for the expenses – minimally, education and Medicaid – associated with these arrivals?