June 22, 2008

Oh, How the Numbers Will Shrink

Justin Katz

Maybe we should start a betting pool for the dollar amount of November's supplemental-budget shortfall. I've got a fiver on $364 million — a number plucked in the rough-ballpark fashion of The Price Is Right.

Already, though, I can hear the voices (even of those who generally agree with me): "Whoa! Isn't that a bit high?" Yeah, perhaps, but consider how easily $30 million disappears (emphases added):

The agreement came to light, amid dissension within the union ranks, on the day after the Democrat-controlled General Assembly approved a new state budget that relies heavily on Republican Governor Carcieri's pledge to cut personnel expenses over the next year by a mostly unspecified $90 million. ...

But Carcieri issued a statement that said, in part: "I'm very pleased to announce that we have reached a tentative agreement with union leadership on new contracts for almost all state employee unions."

"While it won't achieve the full $60 million in savings we had hoped for, this tentative deal includes some unprecedented reforms for Rhode Island taxpayers," he said. Asked to elaborate on the potential savings and "reforms," Neal said: "We are not providing any more comment on this issue today."

Consider, also, the commentary of the fox on the henhouse's new security detail, with regard to the much ballyhooed "weakening" of the anti-privatization travesty that leapt into budget document late at night last year:

The Assembly yesterday voted to weaken the law, reflecting a compromise worked out between labor leaders and the governor's office as part of broader negotiations to cut personnel costs in the coming budget year.

AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer George Nee, who helped craft the new bill (which was released publicly for the first time yesterday), said that it represents a concession from organized labor but that the revised privatization law "is still one of the strongest in the country."

"It lowers the barrier, but we still believe it's a difficult barrier," Nee said.

Just a look at the Providence Journal's pie chart of the amounts that "balanced" the budget deficit suggests that the size of the smoke cloud (amplified by mirrors) is of a nine-digit girth. $37 million in new revenues? I'll double down my fiver that revenue decreases, or at least comes in below pre-"new revenues" estimates.

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$80 to $100 million, just to get it on the record.

Posted by: Bob Walsh at June 22, 2008 10:42 PM

$152 million

Posted by: Mike at June 23, 2008 9:38 AM
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