January 3, 2008

More Holes to See Their Real Priorities

Justin Katz

A recent op-ed by House Finance Committee Chairman Steven Costantino (D, what else) further illustrates the game playing that our legislators apparently intend to perform instead of fixing Rhode Island's deep and structural problems:

RHODE ISLAND'S fiscal crisis is also our moment of opportunity. By finding ways to make our tax dollars go further, we can save money, keep taxes under control and provide better services.

I am proposing one way: the creation of a single, consolidated state Office of Health and Human Services, replacing and eliminating five separate departments that together cost over $2.7 billion annually and that are locked by their very structures into chronic operational inefficiency.

Sounds good so far, no? Unfortunately, he goes on:

The structural deficit threatens our ability to grow and to provide critical services. Raising taxes would risk putting further drag on our economy; cutting jobs and services will make the people who need them most suffer. Pitting our financial obligations against our moral obligations is a recipe for failure.

Yup. Mr. Costantino (or is it "cost-a-ton-o"?) hopes to "eliminate five separate, independent departments" without cutting jobs. He cites Gov. Carcieri's "fiscal-fitness" strategy as providing a "mere" baseline of $10 million annual savings, compared with Costantino's proposal, which "goes even further." But the text related to consolidation for the governor's program strongly implies (at the least) a reduction in workforce. Jobs can be redundant, too, and workers are expensive.

It appears that the General Assembly is going to attempt to sell its stick-it-to-the-public solution as some sort of balance against our supposed "moral obligation" to continue funding unproductive lives and inefficient workers. They may not understand that they also have a moral obligation to improve the health of our state, but they'll have no choice but to learn as their bad medicine only makes the symptoms worse.

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It’s my understanding that The Fiscal Fitness team was comprised of volunteers from across state government that felt their individual ideas could make a difference and create cost savings. It was reported that over 100 state employees were re-assigned to the Fiscal Fitness Team while continuing to receive their regular salary plus any overtime they might accrue (take 100 people out of the system and it still works!).

The Fiscal Fitness Team introduce changes in the way government works and consolidations in departments, divisions and services projected costs saving to the state of RI from 2005 to 2007 $259,627,880.00.

The way we incinerate 17 years olds was a suggestion to save money and in reality it ended up costing more money and had to be repealed not before adding to the budget deficit.

The layoff of state employees was suppose to save $100 million and it is now revealed the savings will not reach the goal (there are still over 500 private temporary workers and consultants working for the state with some being paid over $90K to over $200K.

RI deficit has grown from $100 million to over now reportedly $600 million and continues to grow.

Employees (state, cities/towns, fire, police, municipal, teachers, National Guard) have been contributing 100% into the retirement pension system and State of RI has only been contributing 56% of its obligation thus creating the 2nd largest unfunded liability (close to $5 billion over 30 years) in the nation.

In order to offset the underfunding, State of RI changed age, vested years, and lowered per cent retirement return making the RI pension system one of the lowest performing pension systems and retirement return in the nation with one of the highest national required employee contributions.

So there is a proposal in the statehouse to open up 24/7 and full casino gambling at the 2 state sponsored VTL establishments in the state to help offset the budget deficit.

WAKE UP SMITH HILL! Supporting gambling is what got you into this mess (placing too much faith in gambling revenues). Residents and tourist can’t afford to gamble in a state ranked 3rd most expensive state in the nation to visit; state population is moving out of state because of lack of jobs and high taxes; business leaving state due to worst state in the nation business climate; job layoffs; failing housing market and state leading New England in foreclosures and bankruptcies; start of a credit card crises and impending recession.

Posted by: Ken at January 3, 2008 10:00 PM


Typo correction

“The way we incinerate 17 years olds”

They way we incarcerate 17 years old

Posted by: Ken at January 5, 2008 6:28 PM
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