November 15, 2009

Rhode Island Republican Party Platform Draft

Carroll Andrew Morse

Anchor Rising has been provided with a draft of the platform document nearing approval by the Rhode Island Republican Party. To be formally adopted, the platform still needs to pass votes of the party's Executive Committee and then the State Central Committee, and it is possible that some amending could occur at those stages. And with that disclaimer out of the way, we can move immediately to letting the current version of the platform speak for itself...

Rhode Island’s Path from the Wilderness – a Platform for Jobs, Change, and Growth

Preamble – The Republican Party of Rhode Island believes that every American is endowed with the inherent rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We believe that our state must remain anchored by those key principles while developing new and innovative solutions to meet the challenges of the times in which we live.

Rhode Island is today facing the worst economic downturn in over half a century, with unemployment at record levels and the state budget badly out of balance. The national economic situation has been one cause of this, but the severity of the recession in Rhode Island, with over 13% of the working population jobless, can be directly traced to the high tax, union friendly, special interest focused economic policies of the Democratic legislature of the past 15 years.

Rhode Islanders need jobs, now. Rhode Island needs to refashion its economic policies, immediately, to attract businesses to the state, and to encourage existing businesses to invest in new job creation here at home. We need a state budget that is in balance, which has tax policies and rates which are the most competitive in the region.

Rhode Island needs Change, now. Business as usual means the death of our state economy for another generation. We cannot continue to appease union insiders with high taxes, high benefits, and out-of-date government structures when the regular working people of the state are losing jobs and the state its economic vitality. We must take a new path, one which leads out of the wilderness to a state of stable full employment, balanced budgets, and sustainable growth. We must do the following:

Jobs for Rhode Islanders
Rhode Island will see sustainable job growth start only when it is perceived by the business community to be a stable, tax competitive, low cost area in which to locate operations. We must:
  1. Reduce corporate income taxes to zero as recommended by the Governor’s Tax Study Group in 2009.
  2. Reduce the personal income tax to no higher than 5% to bring it in line with our neighboring states.
  3. Eliminate costly and time consuming regulatory hurdles that make our companies uncompetitive.
  4. Reinvigorate state support of higher education to create a highly qualified workforce.
  5. Continue to promote research at our local Universities that will lead to good paying jobs in the state.
  6. Fix our roads and bridges to improve our economic viability.
  7. Restructure the EDC to support both new and existing businesses.

Cut Spending, Balance the Budget
The Rhode Island governments at all levels must reduce spending, restructure operations, and live within the prudent limits set by our job creating revenue and tax policies. We must:
  1. Limit public sector wages, benefits, and co-pays to match those in the private sector.
  2. Reduce out of control state pension costs by moving to a defined contribution retirement plan for all state employees.
  3. Increase the minimum retirement age for state employees to 63 and eliminate cost of living adjustments (COLA) on pensions.
  4. Eliminate all unfunded mandates on our cities and towns.
  5. Oppose automatic contract extension for all public sector employees. All contracts should be fully negotiable on expiration.
  6. Consolidate state and local municipal and school functions in a common sense way to eliminate unnecessary duplication and cost.
  7. Bring our welfare benefits in line with neighboring states.

Make Better Health Insurance Options Available to Rhode Islanders
Rhode Islanders will get the best, most affordable healthcare results when competition among insurance providers is maximized, costs are carefully managed, and malpractice legal abuse is curbed. We must:
  1. Promote competition among multiple health insurance providers to lower costs to RI citizens.
  2. Ensure continuation of private health plans for any and all individuals, families, and businesses.
  3. Keep health insurance premiums for individuals and businesses fully deductible for RI Taxes
  4. Enact medical malpractice reform to reduce costs and improve consumer healthcare choices.

Get Better Results for What We Spend on Public Education
Despite one of the highest per student education expenses in the country, Rhode Island continues to have below average test scores and many underperforming schools. We must:
  1. Evaluate all teachers using rigorous performance standards and compensate them on a merit basis.
  2. Give school principals the authority to make teacher assignments primarily on the basis of teacher qualifications and certifications.
  3. Oppose binding arbitration for teacher contracts.
  4. Make available to every child in a failing school district a scholarship worth 75% of the cost of their public education.

Preserve and Use our Environmental Resources for Competitive Advantage
Narragansett Bay, our coastal location, and the natural beauty of our state give us great advantages. We must:
  1. Rapidly develop wind and other cost effective alternative energy sources within Rhode Island to lower the cost of energy to all Rhode Islanders and Rhode Island businesses.
  2. Develop Quonset as a deep water port to create jobs, promote alternative energy, and create investment for Rhode Island.
  3. Sustain Narragansett Bay as our most valuable resource for tourism, recreation, and commerce.

Increase Government Accountability at All Levels
Our state government continues to be plagued by anti-democratic concentrations of power and conflicts of interest at all levels. We must:
  1. End political dynasties in the state by imposing term limits in our general assembly.
  2. Eliminate the straight party master lever voting option in our elections.
  3. Strengthen the ethics commission so it can aggressively pursue conflicts of interest in the General Assembly and reduce corruption.

In the long standing tradition of New England Republicans, we respect the right of all of our candidates to hold and express their own considered views on social issues.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

One point that may not be accurate:

"Bring our welfare benefits in line with neighboring states."

I believe this happened a couple of years ago. Kudos to the General Assembly and the Governor for doing so.

The writers cannot be faulted, however, for including this item in view of the fact that it took over a decade (about ten years too long) for the necessary reform in this area to take place.

Posted by: Monique at November 15, 2009 11:46 AM

What is missing from this laundry list is a simple, compelling vision of state and local government that provides superior value to its citizens. To wit, what ends do we want government to achieve? How do we measure progress toward them? What is the maximum we are willing to pay to achieve these ends (e.g., do we want to make our tax burden per $1,000 of personal income equal to Massachusetts'?). And how will we use these means to achieve the ends we seek? (Hint: this goes way beyond "The Big Audit", and involves the total reengineering -- to use a private sector term -- of government's processes and systems, and reorganizing/restaffing the people who operate them). That vision would no doubt cause many current officeholders and their puppeteers to scream bloody murder. It would be a high risk bet that with such a pitch, you could win over enough people who are finally feeling sufficient pain from the current situation to make much larger changes than they have in the past. And you may find that there aren't enough of those people left in the state to win elections. But what is the choice? This laundry list invites death by 100 cuts, picking over each of these points, personalizing the attacks, playing endless rounds of gotcha politics until by next November we end up with the same result, and the state continues its accelerating downward slide.

Posted by: John at November 15, 2009 12:32 PM

Just for the record, I did not leak it. Not that there is much to leak. I will be voting against it.

Posted by: Will at November 15, 2009 12:39 PM


I don't see where you're going, when you say that it's a laundry list lacking a simple compelling vision at the same time you're saying it needs to include implementation metrics for measuring progress towards specific goals. Isn't that asking it to be both more and less detailed than it currently is? Also, what do you think should be in the "mission statement" paragraphs at the top that aren't there now?

I do think this has the right scope for a platform, even if I don't like every point. As written, it allows state GOP members to make lots of clear statements, such as the party being in favor of more rigorous teacher evaluations, to which the Dems can say they either agree or they don't. And the planks are focused enough so that a candidate can disagree on one or two of the economic and governance issues (which is inevitably going to happen) without having to disassociate himself or herself from the overall direction of the party.

Posted by: Andrew at November 15, 2009 1:17 PM

This is why the people dont have respect for the RIGOP. They dont have the courage of their convictions to stand up for pro marriage and anti abortion initiatives. Im really getting sick of voting for RINOs. Maybe they will get some real candidates that can show some testicular fortitude once the atrocious reign of Gio is gone.

Posted by: Scott at November 15, 2009 10:28 PM

Mixed bag.

They duck on social issues. A party burying its head in the sand is a losing proposition (since the Democrats are not burying their heads in the sand on these). Besides, the Moderate Party has already laid claim to the "we're liberal so as a party we'll pretend not to care about social issue" turf.

Some good stuff (e.g., about the unions, who won't support Republicans anyway so this falls into the "it's about time" category). But most is feel-good pabulum that nobody would argue with.

Missing is the bold stuff. How about matching NH for taxes - no sales or income tax?

How about universal vouchers that follow the child to public or private schools?

How about outlawing tenure and seniority?

Or better yet, repealing the statute that allows teacher unionization and ridding the state of teachers unions?

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at November 15, 2009 10:31 PM

I need to look this over. Just skimmed through it. This as I understand it is not a finished product.
As a voting committee member of R.I State Central Committee, I will have a vote, and at present will not take a stand. I will however bring this to the attention of my fellow Hopkinton Republicans and others.
I do hope that all members of the platform agreed to the platform and fashioned it, and it was NOT dominated by the Chairman and all committee members had input. I have heard at least some grumbling about the committee.
Gio is far better than Pat Morgan, his predecessor. I am curious what Mr. "Rory" Smith will be saying on this!

Posted by: Scott Bill Hirst at November 16, 2009 11:08 AM

As we all are keenly aware, the house of cards that has been RI has begun to fall to the ground. I applaud the platform committee for putting together a platform that lets RIers know that our only goal must be to correct the fiscal mess that the Democrats have gotten us into.

We can debate the social issues all day long but without fixing the fiscal mess first we will have no state to regulate them in.

I will be strongly supporting the platform.

Posted by: Jim Quinlan at November 16, 2009 2:11 PM

Are the rumors true that the Platform Committee wants to add a plank about merging with the Moderate Party so both can sing the same tune in unison and both can join in silence regarding social issues (which in turn means that they agree with the Democrats?

Would the Moderate Party want to take the RIGOP under its wing, given that the moderate RIGOP has continued to show over the decades that moderate Republicanism is a loser, as evidenced by the ever-shrinking rank of moderate Republican politicians in RI?

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at November 16, 2009 2:52 PM

I did not leak the platform but I'd like five minutes alone with whomever did. Publicizing a work in progress is a juvenile stunt that should rain dishonor on the perpetrator.

That said, I am against this platform. It is timid and weak where it should be bold and strong. It is small-minded and can't see the forest for the trees. The environment section advocates government dirigisme which is antithetical free-market Republican principles. The government spending section fails to address the largest categories of wasted spending: social programs, including support for illegal aliens.

I have other objections to this platform but will not air them in this forum. I believe the Republicans can put forth a better document that more fully reflects their values and principles.

Posted by: BobN at November 16, 2009 3:28 PM

"I believe the Republicans can put forth a better document that more fully reflects their values and principles."

Not these Republicans BobN.

Any committee that harbors Avedisian and went all-out for Chafee in very recent history, does not have the capacity to articulate, document or endorse any beliefs that are "bold" and "strong".

Posted by: George at November 16, 2009 4:48 PM

George, if you are a Democrat this conversation must end here. If you are a disillusioned Republican who has been turned off by the RINO-Chafee wing of the party, I think you may find comfort and inspiration, as well as a means of effecting the improvements you seek, by joining the Rhode Island Republican Assembly.


Posted by: BobN at November 16, 2009 4:56 PM


I may be overly idealistic here, but presenting a fait accompli to a group of people that don’t agree on everything tends to create more problems in the long term than does allowing some general opportunities for people to air their positions, before everything has been decided. In fact, I would submit that a major cause of the so-called Republican rift is the moderate-to-liberal wing’s unwillingness to discuss conservative ideas, in favor of practicing a kind of identity politics (i.e. we have to support this because we’re "New England Republicans") or focusing on particular personalities instead. Keeping the substance coming that’s needed to keep the focus on ideas is one way to dissuade this.

Plus, I hate the pattern that I occasionally run into, when covering politics and government, of…

Can’t discuss the details, until the committee completes its work.
Can’t discuss the details, until the committee completes its work.
Can’t discuss the details, until the committee completes its work.
Why do you want to discuss the details? Everything’s already been decided in committee.
...and don’t think that it provides much of a benefit to non-insiders, when the final goal is producing something (legislation, a party platform, etc.) that is meant to be presented to the public anyway.

Finally, I’ll add, only half-tongue in cheek, that a rating of “mixed bag” from Ragin’ Rhode Islander comes as high praise when a state-level product of the RI Republican Party is the topic of discussion.

Posted by: Andrew at November 16, 2009 7:22 PM

>>"Finally, I’ll add, only half-tongue in cheek, that a rating of “mixed bag” from Ragin’ Rhode Islander comes as high praise when a state-level product of the RI Republican Party is the topic of discussion."

I don't know if I'd say high praise. But at least (unlike recent years) it appears that the RIGOP may actually publicly disclose the platform, instead of requiring a super-secret handshake and knowing the secret code before being allowed to look at it (no notes or copies allowed).

Plus it at least mentions realistic minimum retirement ages and a defined contribution plan for ALL state employees, not just new hires. [How did THAT slip by Scott Avedesian or NEA Representative Savage, uh, I mean Representative Savage?]

But, overall, BobN is correct.

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at November 16, 2009 9:01 PM
"Can’t discuss the details, until the committee completes its work.

Can’t discuss the details, until the committee completes its work.

Can’t discuss the details, until the committee completes its work.

Why do you want to discuss the details? Everything’s already been decided in committee."


Posted by: Monique at November 16, 2009 9:12 PM

BobN, it's the latter. I'll consider your invitation seriously. But I'm sitting tight on all commitments until I see how the 2010 field unfolds.

Posted by: BobN at November 16, 2009 9:14 PM

didn't mean to sign that last one as BobN... really tired!

Posted by: George at November 16, 2009 9:35 PM

Just for the record, I agree with virtually all of these. I'm not sure exactly how low we're going to have to cut taxes to be competitive (read: slight advantage over neighbors), but 'low enough to attract jobs' is all I can vouch for as long as we're not meeting our obligations of a balanced budget and realistically funding our pension program.

That said, we need to totally revamp the pension program so it's easier to get from here to there.

I chat-up state workers at the pub all the time, and it's like they think they're under attack. What I hear a lot is, "I put $120,000 into the retirement plan... Now they want to cut my pension", unfortunately, $120,000 is chump-change to retire drawing 2/3rd of your salary... Most state workers would have to have about $650,000 put away for their investment to cover their footprint, and that doesn't cover medical. With medical it looks more like a million in the bank to cover each retiree, assuming a 5% draw-down. If we're not putting (or forcing state employees to put) one dollar aside for every five we send out in payroll, there's going to be hell to pay down the line.

Posted by: mangeek at November 16, 2009 10:52 PM

Monique and Andrew:

I understand your point. I am not criticizing AR for putting out something it had received - that's what the press does.

I do think that the platform while still a work in progress is not a public document and that a loyal member would not have leaked it. I am confident that under a different process from the one used, the platform could have been widely debated within the party and much improved, avoiding the scenario that Monique painted.

I do a lot of writing in my job. I can't imagine sending my clients my first draft of a piece.

Posted by: BobN at November 17, 2009 8:00 AM

"atrocious reign of Gio" - Damn - I'm not even sure what to make of that...

In any case, I don't have any problem with this being posted and/or discussed on AR. This is the document that is going to the full committee, and no one should have to see it thirty minutes before they are asked to vote on it. And, as a practical matter, anybody who thinks that there are political secrets in RI is fooling themselves (Steve?)

That aside, I can't say I support every point in the document. I do, however, support the process that led to the draft, and I support the hard work of the committee who met over the course of many months to debate every single word that is in it. I will be voting for it not because it is perfect, but because it is the collective best effort of a diverse and thoughtful group of my partisans.

I get that it is not in our nature to support collectives or decisions made by committee, but that is what a party does. Once you win an election, then you get to make the rules. Getting there is a democratic process and requires consensus. (And, by the way, if the RIGOP was a dictatorship, it would have read like some anarcho-capitalist white paper from the Cato Institute.)

I am also comfortable that it will be a good tool for our candidates. You should all know by now that I enjoy taking a hard line on issues, and I agree that Rhode Island voters are ready for Republicans to act like Republicans when it comes to rolling back the size of government. It will be up to the RIGOP to impose that sort of message discipline on our candidates, and without a platform to work from, that becomes extremely difficult.

A platform is tool to help win elections, not an encyclopedia of republican values. I hope you will all consider supporting it, if for no other reason than that a committee of your Republican peers thinks it will help us win some seats next year. (And, perhaps, will help make my reign a little less atrocious . . . )


Posted by: Gio at November 18, 2009 5:08 PM

Let's give Gio some slack. I do not get the vibes he think he is better than the regular Republicans. I detect that trait in Rob Manning, who assuming the scuttlebut circulating the platform was his or nearly all his.
I am concerned how the platform committee was run and how ALL members were allowed to put forth their ideas.

Posted by: Scott Bill Hirst at November 21, 2009 12:00 PM

This platform does not mention Illegal Immigration. Does the Rhode Island Republican Party consider illegal immigration to be a social issue ? Illegal Immigrants cost Rhode Island hundreds of millions of dollars each and every year. Do the authors of this platform not have the intestinal fortitude to take a stand on this critical issue ? (Perhaps it is because they or their cronies have illegal immigrants working for them.) This is a total disgrace. No wonder why the RIGOP
is on the endangered species list. How about the issue of Life ? Republicans are the Party of Life. We are opposed to abortion, euthanasia, and stem cell research. While we tolerate differing views on these matters, we need to take a stand ON THE SIDE OF LIFE.

Posted by: Bob Tingle at November 29, 2009 7:07 PM
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