December 12, 2007

Rearranging the Deck Chairs on Leonardo's Ship

Monique Chartier

It is a minor irritation to write or hear that cliche. It is a bigger irritation to watch someone carry it out.

At a press conference today, House Finance Chairman Steven Costantino announced a plan to consolidate five state agencies into one.

In a statement issued moments before his press conference was to get under way, Costantino said his bill would by Oct. 1, 2008, eliminate the separate Department of Children, Youth and Families; the Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals; the Department of Health; the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Elderly Affairs. ...

Under Costantino’s proposal, each of these agencies would be replaced with a new “division’’ within the new super-agency for “children and family services,’’ “behavioral health,’’ “developmental disabilities,’’ “public health, ’’ “elderly and long-term care.’’ Added to these familiar rubrics would be a brand-new “division of veterans affairs,’’ for which veterans’ advocates have long lobbied.

How will this save the state money?

" ...the change would result in cost savings for the state, since administrative functions would be consolidated and health and human services would be better coordinated.’’

Can we get a dollar figure on savings?

[Costantino] has not yet pinpointed how much he believed the state might save by “centralizing’’ legal services, purchasing, personnel, licenture and regulation and other back office functions, including the administration of the huge Medicaid program by “one department-wide office.’’

But he suggested the effort “would represent a major opportunity to cut administrative costs, achieve greater economies of scale and make the system as a whole more client-centered.’’

Look, everything is on the table. No suggestion for addressing the state's serious fiscal problems can be disregarded. And though this situation is entirely of their making, a tiny part of me pities the General Assembly for what they have to do.

But unless "consolidation" is a euphemism for the laying off of 4,500 state workers, it is difficult to see how savings from Chairman Costantino's proposal will hit eight figures, never mind come close to the projected $450,000,000 shortfall.

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Other things that can be consolidated:

1. A single DMV location. This state isn't NEARLY big enough to justify all of the satellite branches.

2. Court Functions. Hey Frank! You know that $75 million memorial? Right here, pal.

3. Police and Fire Districts. No brainer and not even complicated.

What else?...

Posted by: Greg at December 12, 2007 10:36 PM

How is consolidating police and fire districts going to save the STATE money? Reading comprehension- we're talking STATE budget issues.

Posted by: EMT at December 12, 2007 11:56 PM

Gee Monique,

Didn’t Governor Edward DiPrete try consolidation by eliminating various state agencies? We all know the results of Governor Edward DiPrete tenure as governor.

Posted by: Ken at December 13, 2007 12:49 AM


Thank you for using the analogy that I was going to use! So I'll elaborate on it...

This proposal by the deli man, unless its PRIMARY GOAL is to significantly reduce the cost to us of our bloated state government, is nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs and cuing-up the orchestra music on the Titanic, just as we're about to hit the iceberg. However, unlike the case with Titanic, this financial iceberg is not obscured by fog, and is totally avoidable.

Like the Titanic, once the ship does hit the iceberg (or the fan, as it may be), people who can afford to get off of it will get on the lifeboats -- they will just leave. Many already have. However, people who cannot afford to pick up their families and move away will remain aboard the ship and slowly freeze and drown in an icy sea of more taxes.

Of course, any disaster can be converted into an opportunity. Leaders can emerge to meet the crisis (I'm thinking of a word rhyming with Taffy). By doing so, they can be in a better position to effectuate positive and meaningful longterm change. It would be nice if people didn't have to have bad things happen in order to change course, but perhaps it will be necessary in our case, in order for enough Rhode Islanders to finally "get it."

As an aside, did anyone count how many times Costantino used the pronoun "I" today? -- and we thought Frank Williams was an egomaniac. Maybe we should start calling Costantino "Captain Smith".

Posted by: Will at December 13, 2007 1:20 AM

Look for the sales tax to be "broadened" but kept at 7%. Capital gains back up to 7%. Marginal rates back to 9.9%. Historic and Film credits cut. $30 million left in tobacco money sucked up. Token cuts in non-Executive agencies like Judiciary and JCLS. $50 million in welfare cuts.
Token 1% hike in extortion payments to teacher's unions ("State Aid To Education" in progressive-speak) for each of the next 3 years, with towns invited to apply for "emergency" waivers of Paiva-Weed restrictions.
This is what I am hearing from a close associate of a well-known Pawtucket rep. The "game plan" is then to raise the broadened sales tax to 9% in 2009, which they think will keep the SS. Welfare/Union from sinking for a few more years.
Also under consideration: A penny hike in gasoline tax, a 1% income tax surcharge for "the rich" (somewhere undefined but north of $100,000) and a .4% increase in all brackets.
Please note these hikes would bring us the "gold medal" in both the sales tax and the income tax (10.9% compared to California's 10.3%).
Progressives be proud!

Happy Kwanza
Free Mumia

Posted by: Mike at December 13, 2007 9:16 AM

If the cyanide is giving you an upset stomach, just keep increasing the dose until the pain goes away!

Senator Paiva-Weed is already on record as saying that the "solution" to the "budget crisis" has to "include" tax increases.

The token / symbolic cuts coupled with significant tax increases would fit their m.o.

Economically, Rhode Island is well on its way to becoming another Buffalo, NY or Detroit, MI - except that we'll have some some pretty facades for the tourists and upscale folks who'll have second homes / condos here (attracted by the pretty facade and ample supply of illegals to maintain the grounds).


P.S. - investment tip of the day: since the tax and spend rocket scientists at the General Assembly will probably expand the sales tax to include services, now would be a good time to buy commercial real estate just over the border in MA, as a lot of businesses - CPA's and everything else under the Sun - will be forced to flee there and will be looking for space.

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at December 13, 2007 10:37 AM

"Look for the sales tax to be "broadened" but kept at 7%. Capital gains back up to 7%. Marginal rates back to 9.9%." etc

We are the seventh highest taxed state. This is not a revenue problem.

This is a spending problem. RIPEC's analysis yesterday points to where we are over-spending.

Posted by: Monique at December 13, 2007 1:24 PM

Gee, Ken, are you saying that Steve Costantino is going to be hauled away and convicted of public corruption? I would like to publicly distance myself from such an implication.

Posted by: Monique at December 13, 2007 1:33 PM


All I’m says is there appears to be a practice of major consolidation or reorganizing State Government services which constantly is fragmenting services; leaving divisions and departments not talking to each other; adding to upper management and cost of providing state government services.

It started during Governor Ed DiPrete’s tenure.

If you want to interpret what I said as to what you implied and written; “Gee, Ken, are you saying that Steve Costantino is going to be hauled away and convicted of public corruption?”

Then I would publicly distance myself from such an implication however, that is not what I wrote or implied.

Posted by: Ken at December 13, 2007 4:40 PM

only one thing you can count on,,,,it wont get finished until 3am some morning in june

Posted by: johnpaycheck at December 13, 2007 7:26 PM
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