December 16, 2009

Supplemental Budget: Not Just Cuts, Tools Also

Monique Chartier

In today's Pawtucket Times, Jim Baron points out that Governor Carcieri's proposed (the Governor proposes, the General Assembly disposes) supplemental budget does not just reduce monies to cities and towns but would also provide a counterbalance; namely, relief from unfunded state mandates.

Carcieri’s proposal also resuscitates several initiatives to allow cities and towns to cut costs that the General Assembly rejected earlier this year, including, requiring all municipal employees and teachers to pay at least 25 percent of their health insurance costs; eliminating automatic cost-of-living increases to pension payments, reducing disability pensions for those able to do other work, and changing the age requirements for retirees to start collecting pension payments, and suspending the Caruolo law, which allows school committees to sue their cities and towns if they believe they are not properly funded, during years when state aid is cut to school districts and eliminating minimum manning provisions from police and firefighters’ contracts.

Those steps alone, Carcieri told reporters, would allow cities and towns to save approximately $120 million a year, more than making up for the money they will lose in the cuts to school aid ($20.5 million) and car tax reimbursement ($65 million).

“If the General Assembly gives those tools to the municipal leadership that we describe here, virtually all of that could be offset with savings.”

Mayor Fung, presumably speaking for all objecting mayors and managers, insists that his city's budget is "bare bones". But can that be true if it contains the above unfunded mandates?

None of this is easy for anyone. Hopefully, the cities and towns will direct some of their understandable angst, so far reserved for the Governor, to the General Assembly to obtain assistance with the expenditure side of the budget (namely, these mandates), now that it is clear that the state must once again reduce the revenue side.

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You're absolutley right to point this out Monique. There does not need to be a tax increase anywhere for these cities and towns to get budgetary relief. All that needs to happen is for these unfunded mandates to be removed from the backs of these cities and towns by the Gen Ass which would allow these municipalites to run their own budgets and bring their contracts/employee base in line with the real world. of course the dirty little secret is all these Dem politicans (Mayors, Gen Asser's) don't want to address that issue because to remove these mandates is to put a stake in the heart of unionism.
But every citizen should understand, there does not need to be a tax increase in order for these cities and towns to live within this proposed budget. Any pol to tells you a tax increase is needed is a pol who's doing the bidding of labor and not the taxpayer.
That point needs to be driven home over and over and over again.

Posted by: Tim at December 16, 2009 9:07 PM

Any mayor who didn't prepare for this ought to resign.

If they didn't see it coming, they're incompetent. If they saw it coming and still didn't prepare for it, they're no better than the crooks in the GA.

Posted by: George at December 16, 2009 9:17 PM

Can anybody give me some examples of these mythical unfunded mandates?

The only example I can think of is something from my own field- the state mandates certain supplies and equipment on ambulances. If that's an example, well... I personally don't think we mandate enough equipment, compared with neighbor states. Its part of the reason we're consistently 10 years, or more, behind in pre-hospital medical care.

Of course, that's one aspect of one field. I'm willing to consider the impact of the overall concept. But I do think, at least in MY industry, that mandates equal consistency. And we need more of it.

Posted by: EMT at December 17, 2009 8:50 PM


That's the only example you can think of? Step increases for teachers? Bus monitors? Minimum manning? Etc.

But hey, if the solution to problems is for experts to dictate minimums and standards from the top down, we should stop messing around and let experts from every field implement mandates at the national level... all to be paid for at the municipal level.

Or communities could make their own determinations, with evidence considered according to the processes under which they prefer to live.

Posted by: Justin Katz at December 17, 2009 9:25 PM

Ok, bus monitors. There you go. I didn't think of that, one I guess because I only spent 3 years taking a bus. I can say from experience that I don't know that a bus driver, by himself, can keep watch on 45+ hyper school kids AND drive safely at the same time. Some of his/her time is absolutely devoted to looking in the mirror that gives him a view of the passengers, and the more unruly they are the more his or her eyes are off the road. That's not safe for anybody, on or off the bus.

Do I think they should be absurdly compensated? No. But I don't know how I'd feel about putting my kids on a bus with a driver only.

Minimum manning.... not so sure about that one. My impression is that it's a negotiated issue, each city being independent of the other in that regard. I'm willing to be wrong though.

If, for example, the state mandated glucometers on ambulances (which it hasn't yet, scarily enough), why should the state buy them? There's no state EMS agency, unless you want to count Quonset Crash Rescue.

If your suggesting that it should be up to the cities and towns whether or not to buy glucometers and other non-mandated items, I don't agree with that any more than I agree with allowing private services to not have them. Mainly because I worked for a private service for years, and didn't have one. Patients absolutely suffered as a result. That I promise you.

It's easy to argue for no standards when you're not the one looking up from the stretcher.

Posted by: EMT at December 18, 2009 10:40 AM

It's easy to argue for no standards when you're not the one looking up from the stretcher.

Or, I should add, the one who wishes he could help the person on the stretcher, but can't due to a lack of equipment.

Posted by: EMT at December 18, 2009 10:42 AM
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