December 28, 2007

Concerns About Coaty

Justin Katz

I'm as hopeful as anybody that Steven Coaty's Newport election to the General Assembly is a sign of trends for the elections to come. I'll admit, broadly, that I'm a little worried that the RIGOP won't prove up to the task of pulling the state back from the the precipice that has the Democrats bedazzled. I'll also admit, specifically, that I've got some reservations based on the little bit that I've read of Coaty.

As I said, during the election, he seemed to retreat too rapidly to "we don't start (the process) by saying we've got to raise taxes" from his anti-tax-increase position. He also could have affirmed his belief that the citizens of the state need relief, not another share of the dirt pie that the state's going to have to start dishing out, when Charles Bakst asked him about his legislative intentions. Instead, we got a little murkyness:

Coaty campaigned against tax hikes and said he'd cut spending, but I reminded him last week that when specific cuts are proposed, the lobbyists and interest groups from his district will howl that reduced service will hurt people. What will he do then? "A decent society will take care of the neediest, but has to be efficient," he said. "The days when you can say, 'Not in my backyard,' or 'Don't touch my rice bowl,' are over. I would think everybody's going to have to sacrifice."

Taxpayers are already making more than their share of the necessary sacrifices, so I hope Coaty's "everybody" means "everybody currently taking from the government, not those giving to it.

Coaty also told Bakst that he supported Chafee over Laffee, so I'd like to know whether he was of the "electability" school or actually liked Chafee's approach. And then there's this:

And gay marriage? He thinks the state should get out of the wedding business: Any couple — man and woman, two men, or two women — could get a civil union license, which would not use the word marriage or wedding. If they also wanted to call themselves married — say by exchanging vows in a church — that would be up to them. "This is a way to resolve a very emotional, tenuous issue to the satisfaction of everyone," he said. (I can assure him: Not everyone.)

At least he's erring on the libertarian side, but his solution is still a cop-out for two reasons:

  • Political. Coaty isn't going to come into contact with such a bill. How's he going to vote on the options that he's actually going to get: Yes to same-sex marriage, or no to same-sex marriage.
  • Substantive. What benefits are going to accrue to these universal civil unions? If they're attractive, should family members be able to enter them with each other? Why limit it to two partners?
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Another wishy-washy, spineless, go-along to get-along Chafee Republican in Rhode Island?


Posted by: Greg at December 28, 2007 12:46 PM

Has the bloom fallen off the newly elected GOP rose that fast for conservatives? It doesn't bode well for GOP gains in '08 if Republicans are still fighting the Chafee-Laffey war.
Coaty got elected because he worked his butt off and bucked the establishment - the same reasons Frank Ferri won his special election.
It's great to see some new blood in this legislature, whether it be blue or red.

Posted by: rhody at December 28, 2007 1:01 PM

Hmmm ... this bears watching.

Another go-along-to-get-along RINO of the Avedesian / Long / Chafee ilk will only further damage the RIGOP.

This State desperately needs a conservative party, not a "we're like the Democrats only not so corrupt" party.

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at December 28, 2007 2:28 PM

The guys hasn't taken his oath of office and he's already a legislative bum?? Geez, let him spend a couple three hours at the Capitol. Then you can trash him ...

On a substantive matter

"the lobbyists and interest groups from his district will howl that reduced service will hurt people"

it should be noted:

1.) that lobbyists and interest groups did not elect Mr. Coaty, the residents and taxpayers of Newport did;

2.) maxed out "services" have been a significant contributor to the state's fiscal problems. Additionally, as has been noted in comments elsewhere, "services" perplexingly do not seem to have solved the problem of poverty. In fact, one now has the distinct impression that far more money spent on poverty still would not cure it.

Posted by: Monique at December 28, 2007 3:01 PM

The RI GOP is not currently up to the task of pulling the state back from the precipice. That's not to say that the Republicans are completely irrelevant. They can have some relevance through ideas.

Given the state's economy, I think we'll find a number of Republican proposals being co-opted and championed by Democrats. Looking at some of Murphy's comments in the past couple of months, it's obvious that he is considering supporting bills championed by Republicans last year.

The mainstream media won't give credit to the Republicans who came up with the ideas--not out of some insidious political bias, but just because they don't want to do the background research to delve into the details.

Monique, unfortunately not everyone agrees with your approach to give Coaty a chance. As always, there are people on both sides of the political aisle whose primary objective is to advance personal goals.

Posted by: Anthony at December 28, 2007 4:43 PM


The chances that the budget deficit will be resolved without resort to any revenue increases is just about zero. Plugging a $450 million hole in the next 6 months is just about impossible by looking only at expenditures.

The key question is which revenue options will be adopted and for how much. Capital gains tax? Good chance it will be increased. Income tax? Probably not.

Posted by: Pragmatist at December 28, 2007 4:49 PM

Monique et alia:

I'm not attacking Coaty (yet). Since there's a small chance that raising these concerns will affect the public temper, a smaller chance that Coaty (or somebody close to him) will read and consider the points, and a somewhat smaller chance that he might comment or email responses (e.g., on why he supported Chafee). Just posting my thoughts as media coverage brings them forth.



That's the terrible reality that Rhode Island's "leaders" haven't faced yet: this deficit has to be fixed through cuts to expenditures (by which I include improvements in the way the state does business. It is certainly a whole lot of money, and it will probably require pay freezes for public employees, as well as decreases in their benefits (not to worry: there are plenty of people who will take their places should current workers think the new packages not worth their while), and it will certainly require decreases in Rhode Island's give-aways and social programs.

If this were a limited-duration whole that needed to be filled, then perhaps a temporary increase in some type of tax or other would be reasonable. But part of the problem is that the state has treated its structural deficit as an annual one-time problem. The cuts have to be made, because Rhode Island's tax regime is already so high that productive citizens are leaving and being dragged down. Increase the burden, and the tax base will shrink at a greater rate.

Posted by: Justin Katz at December 28, 2007 5:37 PM

I wouldn't give much credence about what specific subjects get ink in a Charlie Bakst column, because I would guess there are an equal number that did not. My guess is that Coaty gave answers to a variety of questions, which were then culled down to those few that Charlie wished to place emphasis upon. Remember, Charlie's a propagandist, not a journalist.

As a past, present, and future Laffey supporter, just because Coaty voted for Chafee doesn't make him an automatic RINO yet. I know good conservatives that voted for Chafee purely out of pragmatism, despite disagreeing with him about virtually everything. Coaty talked a good reform game, which I think was key to getting him elected. The proof will be how he conducts himself in the legislature. Since he's never actually voted for anything, at least at this point, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

P.S. By the way, Coaty just got sworn in, so it's okay to attack him now. ;)

Posted by: Will at December 28, 2007 6:34 PM

Coaty blew off College Republicans from Roger Williams University 4 times when they showed up at a precinct to walk with him early on in the campaign.

Posted by: FYI at December 29, 2007 10:30 AM

No offense, but I'd blow off the college republicans too if I was looking to be taken seriously. What have they accomplished besides antics and mayhem that get them in the paper in a negative light?

Posted by: Greg at December 29, 2007 10:43 AM

>>No offense, but I'd blow off the college republicans too if I was looking to be taken seriously. What have they accomplished besides antics and mayhem that get them in the paper in a negative light?


At least the College Republicans are willing to engage the Democrats.

We need more of that, ProJo disapproval notwithstanding.

Better to confront the corrupt Rhode Island Democrats than to sit on one's hands afraid to offend them or make waves, as has been the "MO" of most so-called Republicans in this state.

The CR's at least show some spine and some principles, and as such are the best hope for the future of the GOP in Rhode Island (certainly the "moderate" go along to get along-ism of the Chafee / Avedesian / Jackvony / Long types has proven to be an abject failure).

Posted by: Tom W at December 29, 2007 1:56 PM


What do you do for the party besides post comments on blogs?

Posted by: D. Ray Morton at December 29, 2007 8:18 PM

and FYI apparently they do a lot. They have earned the nation's most improved college republican federation award.

Posted by: FYI at December 29, 2007 8:20 PM


What do you do for the party besides post comments on blogs?

One could argue that, by not race-baiting, sponsoring white-only scholarships, or otherwise acting like an idiot, that I'm accomplishing more positive for the party than the CR.

I'm sure Gio loves you guys, though. He's an 'any press is good press as long as they spell your name right' moron, too.

Posted by: Greg at December 30, 2007 4:15 PM
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