Unemployment Unchanged… but at Least It’s Not Bad News

Unemployment held at 8.3% in February, indicating stagnation no matter how one slices the numbers.

In the Mood for Binding Arbitration?

The insider take is that the General Assembly wants to avoid controversy, after pension reform, but last night’s House Labor hearing gave the impression of a different kind of show.

Campaign Finance Reform Targeting National Organizations Worries Local Groups

Campaign finance reform legislation currently under review in the RI General Assembly targets large national organizations and companies but has small local groups fearing that their speech (and donations) will be chilled.

Taxing the Rich Raises Taxes on All

Efforts to increase the top tax rate shouldn’t be viewed in terms of the current tax system, but the system before the tax reform that is just kicking in. In that case, it represents a massive increase on more than just “the rich.”

Measuring the Inflation of Government

Local political analyst Tom Sgouros asserts that government ought to be measured against income, rather than in line with other expenses, but it isn’t as reasonable a premise as it may at first seem.

School Budgets to Town/City Councils: Derailing Reform Still Suggests a Forward Motion

A labor-friendly senator proposing reform-minded legislation indicates the need for the careful consideration of unintended consequences as Rhode Island shifts the way it does business.

Attorney General Settlements as Corporate Shakedowns

Forty-nine of 50 states participated in legal action against five mortgage banks resulting in a $25 billion settlement. The public should wonder, first, what the banks gained from the settlement and, second, whether the whole process is wise to encourage.

Complete Streets Legislation Takes Build-It-and-They-Will-Bike Approach

The General Assembly is considering legislation that would require Department of Transportation preference of “complete street” designs, but it isn’t clear that another law on the books is really necessary.

Mobility Has Held, but Perception and Perspective Have Changed

Economic mobility has improved or held steady over the past half-decade, but public perception is otherwise. Arguing hopelessness or dependence may reinforce the trend.

Tax Foundation Runs Some Test Firms Through the RI Ringer

A new Tax Foundation study exposes some of the flaws in RI’s economic development practices.

Sen. Whitehouse on the Left-Right Scale and Chafee on the Left

National Journal ranking of liberal and conservative legislators points to politics and posturing.

Revenue Above Estimates Not a Sure Sign of Economic Health

The total tax revenue that the State of Rhode Island has received for the fiscal year continued to beat estimates in January, by $57 million (3.6%), but it would be premature to infer either strong economic growth or the disappearance of the deficit expected for fiscal 2013.

Arguments and Practice in High Stakes Testing

National studies do not show that standardized graduation tests have a clear and immediate effect on student achievement, but closer examination is required for RI’s specific circumstances, and all students deserve diplomas that are universally acknowledged to have value.

Government Bans and Health Statistics

Smoking bans and other government regulations may catalyze or accelerate positive changes, but the critical question is whether their results are worth their costs.

Religion’s Role in Contemporary Governance

The matter of separation of church and state deserves a more dedicated public debate than the heat of individual issues tends to allow. After such a discussion, the U.S. could develop a system allowing for much more variation and diversity than seems possible according to the current terms of the debate.

Education Reform Has to Appeal to Everybody

Education reform has, in recent years, meant a focus on “closing the gap,” but parents of higher-achieving student are justified in their concern that their own children are being short-changed.

The Question Isn’t Whether, but How Bad RI’s Business Climate Is

With one exception, studies of national business friendliness put Rhode Island in the bottom 10 (most frequently in the bottom three).

British Tax Rates Up, Tax Revenue Down

Early results an increase of the top British income tax rate raise questions about the strategy. A tax increase shouldn’t result in level tax revenue, let alone decreased tax revenue

Consumer and Producer, Which Way the Flow?

The larger argument over economic policy is whether it’s possible for a governing class — whether politically elected or untouchably technocratic — to account for all of the necessary variables sufficiently to justify as strong a hand as it currently has.

Rhode Island Improves in Education Week Report Card, with a Long Way to Go

Rhode Island’s overall score improved on Education Week’s annual report card and ranking report, while the national average remained exactly the same. But a look north to New Hampshire suggests that it will be some time before RI can show that its gains are more than just a consequence of the study’s methodology.

Tiverton Department Heads Seeking to Unionize

On Tuesday, February 14, the department heads in Tiverton’s municipal government went before the Rhode Island State Labor Relations Board (RISLRB) as a step toward unionizing. No judgment has been announced, but the issue bears close watching. These are positions that elected officials and voters ought to have maximum flexibility to change.

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