June 19, 2008

Holding Our Breath on the Budget

Justin Katz

Perhaps the feeling isn't as common as I implied last night on the Matt Allen Show (segment streamable by clicking here, or download), but I can't shake a feeling of creepy serenity around the budget battle. Thus far, the legislature hasn't changed anything dramatic from the governor's proposal that would fire us up on the right, yet there hasn't been the primal scream of pain that an adequate budget would elicit from the other side.

It's as if everybody sees the budget as Good Enough for their provisional purposes. For taxpayers, it's good enough to refrain from spitting in a turning tide. On the left, labor, and special interest side, it's good enough to hold the grip until the next battle. What's disconcerting for the former group is the degree to which everybody plainly know that the "balanced budget" is a construction of numbers games. Even House Finance Committee Chairman Steven Costantino is already preparing the electorate for a future budget that will take care of some of the "slippage" from this one.

Look also to NEARI Executive Director Bob Walsh and his proposal to start giving the state pension system partial ownership of the lottery. His suggestion comes suspiciously late in the game to have an effect on this budget, and in the comments to my recent post on the topic, he made it clear that he's happy to wait until the November reevaluation — after elections are done and the political hangover is in full throb.

I wonder how much such schemes are built right into the entire budget. How many numbers aren't going to match expectations but will require the really controversial steps to be taken down the road — probably against taxpayers' interests.

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You refer to "us up on the right" and then make reference to "the left, labor, and special interest side".

I never understand why people include the word "labor" with the Left and exclude it when referring to the Rigth.

Webster's Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language defines labor as "productive activity, esp. for the sake of economic gain. Physical or mental work, especially of the HARD or fatiguing kind."

Clearly, the word "labor" better describes the Right.

One need only look at people like PFD Union Pwesident Lazy-Ass Pauly "No Show" Doughty, who while collecting a taxpayer funded paycheck for 3+ years performed NO work or labor.

Or we can look at Bob Walsh's flock of Union teachers, who fight tooth & nail to maintain 6.75 hour work days (including lunch) and work years of just 180-185 days.

Better yet, just look at the Union Pensions that are doled out, which are all about minimizing the number of years a Union member has to work & labor.

Indeed, a more appropriate reference for the Left would be: "the left, UNIONS, ANTI-LABOR and other special interest side".

Surely we should really refrain from implying that the Unions on the left are somehow associated with "labor".

All the people on the Left that I know spend all their time & efforts trying to avoid Labor (at the expense of those that actually perform labor).

Using the word "labor" in the same sentance as the Left or Unions is as silly as suggesting that the National Education Association or the XYZ Teachers Guild has anything to do with "education" or "teaching".

And yes, I agree with you that the taxpayers need to remain vigilant and keep the pressure on the GA to ensure that the Bob Walsh's don't come in at a later date and play games to undermine the little progress that is being made with respect to creating a sustainable cost structure.

Bob will certainly do his level best to help his flock at the expense of the greater good, but people need to be there ready to confront him when he decides to stick his head out of his rabbit hole to put forth another nutty idea in an effort to minimize the labor that his flock engages in by capitalizing on (and leeching off of) the labor performed by the Right.

Posted by: George Elbow at June 19, 2008 7:48 AM

By the time the Circus comes back in January the 09 supplemental will be $240 million and the 10 budget approaching $400 million.

Posted by: Mike at June 19, 2008 9:52 AM

Good Enough is the sign of a successful budget in bad financial years.

The General Assembly did its' job. They let most of the affected groups know in advance that they might face cutbacks. They worked to develop a budget that required compromise among several groups.

This was by no means a budget to get excited about and I'm sure there will be other problems such as revenue targets not being met or cutback not having their intended affect. It's the equivalent of being happy about having one leg amputated instead of two. But it could have been worse.

Hopefully, elected officials understand the message. This type of budget could have been avoided if the General Assembly had done its job over the past ten years and spent responsibly.

Posted by: Anthony at June 19, 2008 11:04 AM

This is a budget for cowards. Huge tax increases coming, hardly enough in the form of cuts...

...right after the election.

Posted by: George at June 19, 2008 12:26 PM

>> This is a budget for cowards. Huge tax increases coming, hardly enough in the form of cuts...

...right after the election.

You are correct George. You can see the tax increases coming from miles away ... after the elections of course.

Posted by: Frank at June 19, 2008 3:59 PM

Have to agree with Justin, Mik and Frank.

If you didn't catch the wink and a nod act going on, you were blind. The message from the leadership couldn't have been more clear: go along with us now to get us through November, and we'll make it up in the supplemental.

Unfortunately, the world isn't standing still. The global, U.S., regional and state economies will continue to weaken. So too will housing prices, while CPI inflation (understated though it may be by the BLS) will remain stubbornly high -- a combination that may well cut into gambling revenues, not to mention sales and income tax receipts.

Lot's of people are feeling sufficient pain (check those foreclosure numbers now in EG, NK and Barrington, and then exponentially adjust them for their psychological impact) to start planning in earnest to leave RI.

Bottom line: Supplemental will be a nasty surprise for all who mistakenly believe the GA, public sector unions and poverty industry have suddently faced reality. RI has much further to fall -- which means much more pain for private sector businesses and taxpayers -- before it gets serious about fixing this states fundamental structural problems.

Good news for Paul Arpin, if not for the rest of us.

Posted by: John at June 19, 2008 8:03 PM

The difference between prescience and paranoia is simple. If you think it's going to happen, and it happens, it's prescience. If you think it's going to happen and it doesn't happen it's paranoia.

Your paranoia is showing. Oh, it must be tough to live on such a delicate edge that you see intrigue everywhere around you. Relax. Do some deep breathing.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at June 19, 2008 9:48 PM


During years of experience in government and business, I've seen lots of preparation for things that didn't happen. Despite that, I usually found that the process of planning for scenarios that didn't occur was almost always valuable. To put it differently, in my experience, it makes sense to be paranoid, as you define the term.

Or perhaps, on a more literary plane, you've heard of "the dog that didn't bark." I don't hear a lot of barking up on Smith Hill this week, do you?

Posted by: John at June 19, 2008 10:20 PM
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