February 8, 2005

Rhode Island Politics & Taxation, Part VIII

This posting continues a periodic series on Rhode Island politics and taxation, building on seven previous postings (I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII).

Our friends at Rhode Island Policy Analysis do some fine work. You can find a running commentary on the latest news in our state on their website here.

Here is a posting from February 1:

The Government Performance Project was originally a groundbreaking multi-year effort at the Maxwell School of Government at Syracuse University to measure the managment performance of the fifty states, using a consistent set of criteria for efficiency and effectiveness. It has recently spun off into a separate organization funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Yesterday, they published their 2005 "Grading the States Report."

Rhode Island received an overall grade of "C+" for the management performance of our state government. It would have been higher but for the fact that we were one of only two states that received a "D+" in people management (no state scored lower). Why? Do you have to ask?

[The report notes:] "Constrained by union regulations, Rhode Island does not have a much freedom in hiring as many other states...Career advancement for union employees is largely based on seniority...Very few state employees receive performance reviews, due to union objections...Rewarding employees for good performance is also a challenge, where time spent on the job has a much greater effect on salaries."

And we wonder why in so many areas, from education to infrastructure to helping the needy, Rhode Island taxpayers spend much more (in relative terms) than other states, but get much worse performance? Thank you Frank Montanaro.

Here is an additional comment from the report:

Generous pensions will put a lot of stress on the budget for fiscal year 2006, because pension contributions are slated to go up from 12 percent of employee pay to 17 percent to keep up with actuarial calculations.

Rhode Island is a state that has the potential to be greater than it currently is. Both of the issues highlighted above result from demands from the public sector unions that get translated into specific and onerous contract language. Our state will continue to wallow in an unnecessary and expensive mediocrity until we have the courage and critical mass to tackle this issue.


Marc has a recent posting that elaborates on the significant direct influence organized labor has in the state legislature. A ProJo editorial has also weighed in on this matter. It contributes to a better understanding of the issue raised in a recent editorial in the Providence Business News, which added the following commentary about the Pew report:

...the report found that just 10 percent of state employees in Rhode Island are evaluated on a regular basis. That is simply unacceptable.

We hear so often of the stronghold that labor unions have on state government here and that kind of statistic is evidence of how strong that hold is. It represents the results of pro-labor lobbying efforts at the Legislature and concessions in contracts that eventually impact the day-to-day operation of state government.

Failing to evaluate 90 percent of state employees on a regular basis is a recipe for mediocrity or worse. It isnt fair to taxpayers who directly pay the salaries for these workers and it isnt fair to those hard-working state employees who may fail to be recognized or perhaps, promoted for their efforts.