January 25, 2008

Note to Self, re: Future Research

Justin Katz

Here's how yesterday's Peoples and Gregg production begins:

Desperate to close the state's largest budget deficit in modern history, former Gov. Bruce Sundlun did not wait for labor union leaders to come to his office to discuss the situation.

The Democratic governor went to them.

In 1991, several weeks after he was elected, Sundlun personally appeared at the AFL-CIO's Providence office to negotiate a cost-cutting proposal to shut down state government for 10 days. The subsequent three-day shutdown and pay-deferral plan saved nearly $50 million over two years.

"That's the only way to get agreement," Sundlun said yesterday of the importance of collaborating with unions. "If you don't let labor in the door, you're going to get nothing but your head handed to you."

I'm not so thoroughly caught up on my Rhode Island political history studies to say one way or another, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of the components of Sundlun's "collaboration" ultimately laid the groundwork for the doom and gloom that we currently face. It'd certainly be a question worth investigating.


Speaking of collaboration, one of the photos accompanying this story just begs for captioning:


"Could you fax us some language to put in the bill, George. I always find it nerve-racking to try to rewrite your legislation in my own words."

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If my memory serves me right, the State of RI was contributing 89% (national average was 82%) of its part to the Employees Retirement System of RI while employees payroll deductions were contributing 100% of their funding responsibilities.

It’s my understanding during the financial crisis Gov. Bruce Sundlun had the State of RI pension fund contribution lowered to 56%. Today State of RI the unfunded pension liability has ballooned to $4.9 billion due to under payments and poor investment returns. However, it is reported according to the State of RI Treasurer’s Office, State of RI is on track to wipe out the pension unfunded liability utilizing a proactive 30 year payment schedule.

When Gov. Edward D. DiPrete took office he reorganized state government by disestablishing departments and divisions that were working correctly, closely and efficiently together to the point nobody quite new who was on first and who was on second. Some say Ed was working too closely with Buddy because they both became honored guests of the federal government R&R hotel system

Gov. Lincoln Almond took over from Gov. DiPrete and when Gov. Lincoln Almond passed the Governor’s torch on to Gov. Donald Carcieri, he also passed along a $100 million structural budget deficit.

Gov. Carcieri started office in the hole $100 million which has grown in size to over $600 million and will continue to grow due to recession, business closures, job layoffs affecting state income tax revenues, continuing housing market crash, foreclosures and bankruptcies driving local property taxes down impacting cities and towns financial stability, impending credit card crash, loss of state population, loss of lottery and VTL revenues, loss of federal aide due to program reductions and with state local tax cap on cities and towns, beside state services, basic local services will be impacted and reduced along with educational services.

The next three years will not be good for the State of RI and Providence Plantations and its remaining population.

Posted by: Ken at January 25, 2008 5:25 PM

3 years? Unless there is a House with 26 members to say "enough" I can forsee a decade long death rattle of asset sales, income and sales tax hikes and "broadenings" (food and clothing-how "progressive") and revenue anticipation bonds turning the state into Detroit East.
Anyone familar with the working class but proud, clean and safe neighborhoods of Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls and Woonsocket of 30 years ago can look at the Third World sewers which replaced them and see the real RI Future.

Posted by: Mike at January 25, 2008 8:23 PM

"... when Gov. Lincoln Almond passed the Governor’s torch on to Gov. Donald Carcieri, he also passed along a $100 million structural budget deficit.
Gov. Carcieri started office in the hole $100 million which has grown in size to over $600 million"

Another unfounded attempt to pass off responsibility where it does not belong, especially if the recipient has an "R" after his name.

The state budget is 100% controlled by the General Assembly, which has been controlled by Democrats for 70 years. Democrats in the General Assembly are solely responsible for that $100m deficit as well as the present $600m deficit. Not to mention excessive misguided spending on social programs instead of on underfunded public pensions. Decade after decade of increases in education aid sent to cities and towns completely absent any accountability. The absurd roadblock that was thrown up to privatization. All the unsustainable spending in the state budget. Etc. Etc.

It is helpful that you brought up Republicans, though, Ken. Because one thing that would head us in a more productive direction is the presence of a higher percentage of Republicans or non-Democrat-sympathetic independents in the General Assembly. This would perhaps give leadership pause before carrying out some of these misguided decisions.

Up until now, however, we have been participating in a modified version of the cover of Steve Laffey's book. Just substitute the Independent Man for the elephant and powerful Democrats doing the pushing over the cliff.

Posted by: Monique at January 25, 2008 9:09 PM

Ken --

Gov. Almond did not "take over" from Gov. DiPrete. DiPrete was Gov. from 1985-91. Gov. Sundlun succeeded DiPrete in 1991, Gov. Almond succeeded Sundlun in 1995.

And although Mayor Cianci did time in a federal prison, Governor DiPrete was prosecuted by the State and served at the A.C.I.

Posted by: brassband at January 25, 2008 9:29 PM

Yes, the deficit grew....as the General Assembly ignored Carcieri's budget, passed their own and overrode Carcieri's vetos!

From what I can tell, he average Rhode Islander isn't buying the "Blame Carcieri" babble either. For the past few years, all the newspapers and radio stations talked about was how irrelevant RI Republicans had become.

Now all of a sudden, the Democrats are going to try to undo 5 years of Charlie Bakst, Scott MacKay, Dan Yorke, etc. telling Rhode Islanders how Republicans have no power and try to get people thinking Carcieri is to blame? Good luck with that one.

The Democrats themselves gloated about Carcieri and Republican legislators not having any power.

It's time to pay the piper and I hope that the GOP is working on recruiting some solid candidates, because they might actually have a chance this go round.

Posted by: Anthony at January 25, 2008 11:12 PM

Monique and Brassband,

Sorry, I stand corrected; as I was typing I reversed Gov. Almond and Gov Sundlun. And yes I got federal R&R vacation center mixed up with state R&R vacation center. That’s why I indicated you’re working with an old memory!

And Monique, I believe I can go back and find emails and documents that Gov. Carcieri publicly released to the public that he had closed the $100 million structural deficit after taking office. I’m not blaming him for anything just indicating he inherited the short end of the stick.

What I’m trying to point out is the RI structural budget deficit developed over multiple administrations both Democratic and Republican.

If people are going to be so sensitive to words and point the blaming finger without being open to discussion and consensus, then I’m sorry to say this is another reason why I left my birth state because with this type of prevalent attitude there is only one direction the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations can go. DOWN THE TUBES and it’s already beginning to slide.

The smallest state in the union and nobody can work together for the common good of the whole. I’m sorry to say this is what my generation gave birth to. 21st century egos at work!

Posted by: Ken at January 26, 2008 12:19 AM

Caption for revealing Photo,

"Look,you know I've got total control in the Senate Chamber. Just tell me what you want and DON'T want and I'll see it gets done.

Posted by: william t at January 26, 2008 10:13 AM

"You two have gone too far this time. Who do you think I am, Wendy Collins?"

Posted by: Tim at January 26, 2008 1:40 PM

"George your tie is so soft. Can't believe you got this at Wal-mart".

Posted by: Tim at January 26, 2008 1:43 PM

"Yo Therea I can't tank you enuff. I'ze gotten maw compalments on my matchin socks/spawt coat look. You da bomb Weedy. Wanna feel my tie?"

Posted by: Tim at January 26, 2008 1:48 PM

"Clever idea taping those c-notes to the back of your tie, so nobody will notice you passing the money to me."

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at January 26, 2008 3:44 PM

Quick question. Do you all get angry emails from the Providence Journal asking you to take down photos from the ProJo??? If you do or don't, do you agree with requests such as this?

Posted by: Matt Jerzyk at January 26, 2008 10:23 PM

Jerzyk, while you're here, care to offer up a caption idea?

Posted by: George at January 28, 2008 4:09 PM
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