November 1, 2012

A Brief Summary of David Cicilline's Career in Public Spending

Carroll Andrew Morse

During last week's WPRO (630AM) debate, in response to a question from moderator Bill Haberman, Congressman David Cicilline made a general claim that "I don’t have to suggest to you that we need to cut spending. I've already done that". Congressman Cicilline seemed to be referring to a recent vote, but the moderator wanted to move to a discussion of the long-term entitlement spending and Congressman Cicilline wasn’t able to elaborate. However, David Cicilline has been involved with spending decisions in each public of the public offices he has held, allowing for an examination of his record on spending over the arc of his career.

State Representative: David Cicilline was elected to the RI House in 1994 and served there for eight years. In his first seven years in office, as is common practice in the Rhode Island legislature, he voted in favor of the seven leadership budgets put before him. In his final year in office, Rep. Cicilline voted against the final budget (for FY2003), though he also voted in favor of the final version of that year’s Article I, which set out the amounts to be appropriated to the various state government departments.

The first budget that Rep. Cicilline voted for didn't increase spending. After that, it was off to the races, with budgets increasing each year over the prior year. The last state budget (FY2002) he voted in favor of was $1.7B (B as in billion) larger than what the state budget had been prior to the year he took office, having increased from $3.5B in FY1995 to $5.2B in FY2002. Adjusted for inflation, that was an increase in state spending of roughly 25%. In that same period, the portion of the budget funded by state taxes increased from $1.6B to $2.7B, the increase of $1.1B in spending paid for with general revenues corresponding to inflation-adjusted growth of greater than 35%.

I suppose Democratic partisans will respond by saying it's "old news" that David Cicilline supported sizable spending increases crafted by the Democratic leadership of the state legislature, but given that the Congressman is advancing the fact that he will vote for Democratic leadership in the Federal legislature as the primary reason to vote for him, this part of his political career does take on particular relevance.

Mayor of Providence: When David Cicilline took over as Mayor, the city budget was $523M (M as in million), following a $75M budget growth explosion over just two years, under previous mayor Buddy Cianci (about $40M coming from an increase in state-aid). Mayor Cicilline kept the spending pedal to the metal for a third consecutive year, increasing the city budget by $31M to $554M in his first term in office.

In six of seven years after that, Providence's budgets increased over the prior year. The exception was FY2010, when spending was reduced from $641 in FY2009 to $618M. In his final year in office (FY2011), the Providence's budget was up to $638M, $115M larger than when he took office. However, in inflation-adjusted terms, that $115M difference resulted in a final Cicilline budget that was roughly equivalent in size to the final Cianci budget (or was it a Cianci/Lombardi budget?), and throughout Cicilline’s 8 years as Mayor, the inflation adjusted Providence budget fluctuated between bounds roughly established by the final Cianci budget and his own first-year budget.

But while Cicilline’s final inflation-adjusted budget was about the same size as the budget when he took over, according to the city’s 2011 annual report, the number of Fire Department personnel was reduced by 61 from 511 to 450 during his time in office. Again, while some might consider this "old news", municipalities bordering Providence are currently coming under stress because of the number of mutual-aid calls they have to respond to in Providence, and how this situation came to be is not old news.

Of course, Mayor Cicilline's was Mayor while Governor Donald Carcieri and the state legislature were implementing cuts in various forms of local aid, in response to the fiscal crisis at the state level. The combination of "appropriated" municipal and education aid to Providence hit its peak in FY2007 at $257M; by FY2011, Providence was only receiving $203M from that same set of sources. Over the period of that $54M cut in annual aid, the total budget for Providence wound up $28M larger in FY2011 than it was in FY2007.

By the time of Mayor Angel Taveras's first term in office, the city's deficit was on course for $110M, so to blame the "category 5" on state-aid changes basically amounts to saying that Mayor Cicilline’s fiscal management in Providence should have been good enough to have only left behind a category 3 $50M deficit. And that's before factoring in how much was hidden by the one-time raid on the reserve funds.

Link to Part 3: First District Congressman...

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Notably Cicilline built the rainy day fund he "raided", more than doubling what was in the fund when he took office. Spending down the fund in a recession is what those funds are for.

He also fully funded the pensions (up from 64.2 percent during Cianci's last year), something you don't take into account when you say "Cicilline’s final inflation-adjusted budget was about the same size as the budget when he took over."

Posted by: Russ at November 1, 2012 4:29 PM

Spending down the fund in a recession is what those funds are for.
...and if the guy that comes after you doesn't have the same money to spend, because it was all spent on one year of regular operating costs that weren't modified in response to a shortfall, hey that's his problem.

Posted by: Andrew at November 1, 2012 4:47 PM

You might as well stop defending the indefensible, Russ. You can rationalize away Cicilline's numerous misdeeds until the cows come home, but he'll still be a lying, manipulative, cronyist opportunist. Lucky for you, you live in a corrupt, outcome-oriented, Democratic-progressive entitlement state in which politicians are judged by their party affiliation and what they can do for special interest groups instead of on their integrity and records. In other words, the few people left who care know exactly what Cicilline is, and the people who don't aren't going to start caring and will just pull the master lever.

Posted by: Dan at November 1, 2012 5:31 PM

"...and if the guy that comes after you doesn't have the same money to spend, because it was all spent on one year of regular operating costs that weren't modified in response to a shortfall, hey that's his problem."

That might work for those who weren't actually living here, but Providence taxpayers aren't so easily snowed. In '08, '09, and '10 the state cut aid to cities and towns after the city budget had been set.

You're basically saying Cicilline and the city councill should have had a crystal ball or perhaps they should have precipitously raised property taxes to make up for the shortfall.

Posted by: Russ at November 2, 2012 9:32 AM

btw, that's not all the mayor did at the time. Recall the Fair Share Assessment Plan that laid the groundwork for the deals cut by the current mayor. This at a time when the Republicans would have you believe the mayor was acting a Pollyanna.,43811

In attempting to close the projected budget deficit in Providence – estimated at about $50 million for the fiscal year that started July 1 – Mayor David N. Cicilline has officially asked the city’s nonprofit hospitals and universities to do their “fair share” by increasing fee payments to the city, notwithstanding their status as tax-exempt property owners.

Note that's on top of the PILOT deal struck 2002 (by then Rep. Cicilline).

Posted by: Russ at November 2, 2012 9:53 AM

@Russ-I DO live in the city(for 28 years)and you and Cicilline and all your yuppie gentrifier friends can row a boat to Venezuela where your dream dictator holds sway

Posted by: joe bernstein at November 2, 2012 11:08 AM

Yes, what a city it would be without all the yuppies screwing up the neighborhood (I'm actually flattered at this point someone thinks I'm young).

Posted by: Russ at November 2, 2012 12:11 PM
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