January 19, 2008

Now There's an Interesting Idea

Justin Katz

Not long after I'd circled the following paragraphs in my copy of today's paper, I noticed a typical bit of ad ignorantiam over on RI Future:

Carcieri's chief budget officer, Rosemary Booth Gallogly, suggested earlier in the week that the administration may have "another alternative if there were a fiscal crisis."

A provision in Rhode Island law gives the governor emergency power to suspend law during "disaster emergencies."

Rhode Islanders with anything above an eighth-grade reading level (whether that level is judged according to our standards or, say, Massachusetts's) might understand that the place to research "a provision in Rhode Island law" would be our state's General Laws, not its Constitution, and indeed, among the statutes is this definition (emphasis added):

(1) "Disaster" means occurrence or imminent threat of widespread or severe damage, injury, or loss of life or property resulting from any natural or man made cause, including but not limited to: ...

(vi) Epidemic; ...

(viii) Blight; ...

(x) Infestation; ...

(xiv) Endangerment of the health, safety, or resources of the people of the state

I'll leave it to lawyers to discern whether epidemic stupidity, a blight of legislative corruption, and infestation by parasitic moochers apply, but even if the governor must rely on the imminent endangerment of citizens' resources, it's at least plausible that a sufficiently reckless and harmful budget passed by the General Assembly this year might entitle the governor to:

Suspend the provisions of any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business, or the orders, rules, or regulations of any state agency, if strict compliance with the provisions of any statute, order, rule, or regulation would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the emergency, provided that the suspension of any statute, order, rule or regulation will be limited in duration and scope to the emergency action requiring said suspension.

Of course, the General Assembly "may terminate a state of disaster emergency at any time," but I'd say it would make for very interesting workplace and dinner-table discussion for Rhode Islanders to consider the description of "what actions are being taken to control the emergency and what action the public should take to protect themselves" that the governor would thereafter be required to produce.

Among the latter class of actions is an option that the NEA-RI's executive director, Bob Walsh, continues to ignore:

"It's crazy to tell some of the top earners in Rhode Island, people making millions of dollars a year, that they don't have to share in this burden," Walsh said.

Those "top earners" — many making much less than millions of dollars a year — already share a disproportionate amount of the burden that Mr. Walsh has worked so diligently to help foist on the state's shoulders. And in point of fact, it's simple truth to tell them "that they don't have to share in this burden": They can simply gather up their belongings and assets and leave.

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"A provision in Rhode Island law gives the governor emergency power to suspend law during "disaster emergencies.""

Please, Brer Duck, don't throw us in the briar patch!

Posted by: Monique at January 19, 2008 4:49 PM

Although a benevolent dictatorship might be a considerable improvement at this point, I don't think that's what the governor's going for. He just wants the problem solved; he's not doing anything for a power grab.

Imminent financial collapse / insolvency certainly seems like it could be considered an "emergency" (paging Bruce Sundlun). The governor has emergency powers -- all he has to do is to declare one. As long as the General Assembly doesn't nullify it, it would stay in effect, until the emergency passes. It would certainly be a good way to get it through to the public that we have a very serious problem that needs to be dealt with. However, I don't think he'll declare a state of emergency on Tuesday, as long as he feels he has other less painful alternatives.

He knows has "the stick" available to him, if "the carrot" doesn't work. The governor is usually a carrot person. I think that the leadership of the General Assembly and some of the state union leaders may get the hint without the Gov having to resort to anything too drastic. As long as he believes that people are willing to work with him, he'll do so. If the furlough idea doesn't work, he always has the option of more layoffs or far deeper budget cuts.

PS That Bob Walsh quote is priceless, as if Rhode Island is awash in people making "millions of dollars a year"! It might play well with the class warriors, but taxing a few hundred millionaires more isn't going to solve any of our problems in either the short or long terms.

Posted by: Will at January 19, 2008 6:37 PM

Personally I am NOT against revoking the tax cuts on "the rich".
At $40 million that is roughly 6% of the $600 million hole. The other 94% is going to be "on the backs of" either those who benefit from the union/welfare kleptocracy or the taxpayers-over the Gov.'s veto in an election year.
The other possibility is the sale of the lottery which would be a stunning, inane, cannibalistic act but which would keep the SS Union/Welfare afloat into 2009.

Posted by: Mike at January 19, 2008 6:51 PM

You miss the point, Mike: Do you suppose people with such tremendous resources as "the rich" are going to sit by as you take $40 million dollars away from them? More likely, they'll walk away, taking whatever tens of millions of dollars the state still takes from them.

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 19, 2008 7:12 PM

The Democrats and their union controllers, and the poverty pimps, would love nothing better than for the Governor to issue an emergency declaration and then start cutting.

They all know the monetary situation, and this would let them off of the hook with their "rank and file" constituencies. They could (and would) assign full blame to the Governor for cleaning up the mess 100% attributable to the welfare / union / Democrat machine ... comfortable in the knowledge that their minions would naively swallow it hook, line and sinker.

You can just hear the chants of "Don Carcieri hates children, state workers, unions, etc. etc. etc. - just look at all the nasty things he's done to them! They're victims of Don Carcieri!"

Posted by: Tom W at January 20, 2008 11:54 AM

If the governor's attitude was one of "We've all got to tighten our belts a bit," as it has been for other governors who've faced fiscal crises, maybe his plan would get broader support.
But as we know, not everybody is being asked to tighten their belts. The fattest cats sure aren't.

Posted by: rhody at January 20, 2008 5:30 PM

Justin is correct from a strict economic standpoint. When all is said and done, the $40 million hit on "the rich" probably will yield half that amount.
However, as a PR move it must be done as part of a massive restructuring. The weeping and the wailing from the likes of Rhody and his fellow brain addled "progressive" allies in the GA will not permit the massive cuts needed without repeal of these 2 tax cuts.
Can you imagine the gnashing of teeth coming from the dimwits this week and next with the State Of The State Tuesday and the FY 09 budget next week? It's going to be a pathetic site. My popcorn is ready. LOL.

Posted by: Mike at January 20, 2008 9:07 PM

Since Mike gets his rocks off on seeing people suffer, why stop slashing the budget at $600 million? Let's go the full billion - nice, round number.
Oh wait, Mike's beloved Dem leadership, and their consultants and lawyers, might suffer a paper cut or two if we went that far.

Posted by: rhody at January 20, 2008 10:26 PM


Has the stunning response to the projo's "have you left RI?" survey escaped you? Hint: these are the people responsible for the below expectation tax collections noted at the Revenue Estimating Conference. And what percent of the total number of people who left do you think is captured by a projo online survey? Sure, further raise taxes on RI's few remaining (and therefore ideologically liberal) "rich" (most of whom wouldn't make it into the middle class in really rich communities like Greenwich or Atherton). And while you're at it, check to make sure that the boys at Providence Equity aren't packing up to leave -- I'd guess their tax bill alone would put a big lick on the budget if they join the exodus.

Posted by: John at January 21, 2008 8:49 AM

Where's Atherton?
And we ALL need to tighten our belts to survive this budget crisis. NO exceptions.

Posted by: rhody at January 21, 2008 10:45 AM

Come on Rhody I have made it clear I consider the "Leadership" corrupt slime and worms. But at least they are rational, unlike the "progressives" with their kid in a toy store fantasies of funding formula's, open borders, confscatory taxes and exponential growth in government spending.
The union kleptocracy is reaping what it has sown.

Posted by: Mike at January 21, 2008 5:15 PM

Go after the leadership, and you'll root out the union kleptocrats. Dominic "Rubbers" Ruggerio makes $180K out of the union game (now there's a kleptocrat for you), yet I've never heard anyone here hold him up as part of the problem. How come nobody goes after him?
And you want to go after people who've been frozen out by the leadership thinking THEY'RE the problem? Sad.

Posted by: rhody at January 22, 2008 1:29 AM
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