— The Chafeedom —

March 29, 2013

Both Sides of the Chafee Raises

Patrick Laverty

I have to admit, I'm torn on this one. The headlines and many people are screaming because Gov. Chafee wants to give two 3% raises to his cabinet members, just six months apart. Yeah, he wants to give more than a 6% raise, in less than a year to directors already making well into the six-figures. How dare he!

Additionally, last year the Governor balked at giving URI faculty raises.

In April, Chafee denounced the faculty raises, saying they were inappropriate “at a time when Rhode Islanders are struggling and when other state employees are making a daily sacrifice to help the state remain fiscally healthy.”

But let's be fair and look at some more facts. These directors haven't had a raise since 2002. Yes, yes, they make six-figures, but if you want to have good people in the jobs, you need to at least pay appropriately. We're talking about fourteen people and the total given in both raises to the directors would be $111,590. Of course not a drop in the bucket, but also it wouldn't be unreasonable to call this the cost of doing business.

Lastly, also mentioned in the article is that the directors have been doing a much better job at meeting their assigned budgets. For the first time in a while, no supplemental budget is required. Ok, so maybe a response to that is "staying within their budget is their job, we're going to reward them for doing their job?" Well, yeah. Do we all think that we have to go "over and above" every year in order to justify any pay increase in our job each year?

I just keep going back to the lack of raises for the last eleven years. That sounds crazy to me. But I get that it's been lean times since then. Is it time to give these people an increase? Maybe a single 3% increase for the year is more appropriate? What do you think?

Clarification: The *positions* have not been given a raise in eleven years. The current set of directors have not been in the positions for that long.

March 26, 2013

Government Authority and Respect

Carroll Andrew Morse

In case you missed it, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee had this to say, during a taped interview broadcast this past Sunday on WLNE-TV's (ABC 6) "On the Record With Buddy [Cianci]" and linked to by Katherine Gregg of the Projo...

[T]he media just gets themselves whipped up...who's the piñata of the day, who's the punching bag of the day. And the respect that used to be afforded to leaders [has] eroded across the country, not just Rhode Island.
The relationship between government and respect was also the subject of an email reprinted by Jonathan Haidt, a leading authority on the social psychology of politics, in his recently published The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion...
The enemy of society to a liberal is someone who abuses their power (Authority) and still demands, and in some cases forces, others to "respect" them anyway.
(I personally wouldn't limit that thought to just liberals, but I digress).

The important connection is that when Rhode Island's citizens (whether members of the media or not) think of state government, while they may not immediately think of authority being abused, they certainly can find ample instances of it not being well used. If you believe that Professor Haidt and his correspondent are on to something, then Governor Chafee should be aware that the lack of "respect" that he senses may say more about the government he leads -- and perhaps about his own leadership -- than it does about his critics.

March 13, 2013

Kicking Off the Office Pool on the Size of the Block-Report Scandal

Justin Katz

With Governor Lincoln Chafee planning a “media availability” at 2:30 this afternoon related to an analysis by Ken Block’s Simpatico Software to find waste, fraud, and abuse in Rhode Island’s social services programs, many residents are wondering whether he’s been hoping to hide something.

Governor Chafee has excused his early decision not to release the full report on the grounds that there is an investigation ongoing into the results, but there is much that he could tell us without jeopardizing official state police activities. Most significantly: What’s the total? What’s the bottom line for what the State of Rhode Island is losing to incompetent, inappropriate, and illegal activity?

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

March 8, 2013

Trust Chafee? You're Kidding, Right?

Patrick Laverty

My, how quickly Governor Chafee can change his opinion on things. First, on January 10th of this year, his office issued a press release that began:

Governor Lincoln D. Chafee Announces New Transparency and Accountability Initiative, Signs Supporting Executive Order

Providence, RI - In his continuing efforts to promote open and honest government in the State of Rhode Island, Governor Lincoln D. Chafee today announced a new Transparency and Accountability Initiative. The goal of the Initiative is to provide the public with an increased level of information regarding the operation and management of government, as well as ensuring the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars.

Beginning today, Rhode Islanders will have access to a number of documents that have already been uploaded to the Rhode Island state government Transparency Portal (www.transparency.ri.gov). Over the next 18 months (on a rolling basis), the state will continue to add financial reports, audits, forms, and other financial information such as contracts, grants and quasi-public agency expenditures.

"The people of Rhode Island deserve more and better information about the operation and management of their government," said Governor Chafee.

However, today NBC 10's Bill Rappleye reported:
Gov. Lincoln Chafee said Friday, he's learned of waste and fraud in the state's Medicaid system, and that the fraud involves food stamps too.

Chafee told NBC 10 during a taping of "10 News Conference" that he does not intend to tell the public about what he's found and instead working on closing the gaps that allow cheating.

Does not intend to tell the public? Wait, what? Can I re-read that press release? Lemme see, "Chafee today announced a new Transparency and Accountability Initiative" and "to promote a more open and honest government." Really? He was just joking, right?

In the News Conference video, Rappleye even asks Chafee "What happened to transparency?" to which Chafee responds, "You're heckling me here." I'm not exactly sure how a media member asking the Governor to live up to his own promise, less than two months old, can be considered "heckling." Not once during the pointed questioning did Chafee ever say that the public will be allowed to see the contents of the report and Chafee also stated that he is not trying to avoid embarrassing anyone in his administration by releasing the report.

Can someone please explain again those green and blue campaign signs we saw two years ago? "Trust Chafee" Are you kidding me? First he signs his own decree for transparency and then about six weeks later he refuses to release a report detailing fraud and waste of taxpayer money? This is baffling, to put it nicely. November 2014 can't come soon enough for this Governor's seat.

February 5, 2013

The Political Philosophy of Our Governor

Justin Katz

This month, The American Spectator magazine introduces its readers to Rhode Island's Independent Governor Lincoln Chafee through a profile by Ethan Epstein in its "Eminentoes"section. The gist of the piece is that Chafee comes from an old-money political dynasty and views political party more as part of a heritage that he, by rights, ought to be able to define. He did so with his abandoned Republican brand, and he's done the same with his amorphous Independents.

We who've watched his tenure up close can now say that Chafee is “moderate” in the statist sense: He believes big government should confiscate enough money to pay for itself. It was no error that the Cato Institute marked him as the seventh worst governor in the United States for fiscal policy.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

December 18, 2012

Things We Read Today (43), Tuesday

Justin Katz

Explaining Rhode Island's decline in four brief sections: legal process, the economy, the media, and fashionable graft.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

December 10, 2012

The Self-Censorship of the Community and a Loss of Rights

Justin Katz

This is quite a thing to read, in a region and a nation that prides itself on tolerance and freedoms of expression and religion. A Tiverton family has spent recent years investing in a spectacular show of Christmas lights on their house, to the extent that they're finding the visitor traffic to be an opportunity for charitable collections.

Asked about the national news that Rhode Island's governor, Lincoln Chafee, has made by doggedly and ineptly refusing to call the festive tree in the State House a "Christmas tree," here's their response to Providence Journal reporter Richard Dujardin:

... the couple acknowledged that they, too, have been a bit cautious as to what they include in their Christmas display. There's no Christ child, and no crèche.

If it were only up to her, said Colleen, she would have included "Christmas with a capital C," a song that does call for keeping Christ in Christmas. But she said she was afraid some might think it too political.

"We don't want anything political because someone might then try to shut us down. That could hurt the charities and the kids."

"You have to remember that this is the town that once shut down the Easter Bunny," Larry piped in, referring to a 2007 controversy when the superintendent of schools banned a parents group from setting up a booth at a school fair where people could have their pictures taken with the Easter Bunny — on grounds it would be a violation of the separation of church and state.

"Personally I think there are more important things to worry about," said Colleen. "I worry about people who don't have enough food to eat, and kids who are seriously ill. If people worried more about those important things, the world would be a better place."

So, the aggressive efforts of secular zealots have accomplished a sense among the people that their public expression of religious belief — on their own property and in the context of a holiday that's explicitly about those beliefs — would be political and that political speech would be grounds for the government to prevent charitable and community-building activities.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

December 4, 2012

Economic Freedom? Not in Rhode Island.

Justin Katz

To kick off a two-year planning process, the RI Economic Development Corporation under Governor Lincoln Chafee is seeking a contractor to, among other things, "analyze existing business climate reviews from the past three years, such as the Tax Foundation's State Business Tax Climate Index, Beacon Hill Institute's State Competitiveness Rankings, and Forbes Best States for Business to determine the reasons for Rhode Island's performance in these studies."

Read a little more closely, and one gets the impression that the idea is to find factors that Rhode Island could leverage without making substantial changes to the tax and regulatory policy that restrict the ability of Rhode Islanders to make their own paths in the economy:

The State intends to grow its business environment in a way that maintains high standards for development that equitably serves all our residents, protects the environment and builds on our assets. This analysis will help the State determine which indicators to improve, emphasizing those that further our standards of equitable growth as well as nurture our business environment.

You'll recall that Rhode Island does best on the Beacon Hill index, which attempts to capture what some might call the "mushier" considerations.

Not so mushy is Rhode Island's performance on the 2012 iteration of the Fraser Institute's "Economic Freedom of North America" report.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

November 29, 2012

Governor Gives Thirty Minute Notice For Tree Lighting

Monique Chartier

Yes, you read that correctly: thirty minutes. Governor Chafee deliberately excluded the people of Rhode Island from the lighting of THEIR tree (whether "Christmas" or "holiday") at THEIR State House.

Chafee's office announced at 11:31 a.m. on Thursday that the governor would host a lighting of the tree at noon. Typically, several days' notice is given for such events.

Chafee said before flipping the switch at the sparsely attended ceremony that he gave short notice this year because last year the event turned into a "disrespectful gathering."

The Governor chose to adhere to his characterization - "holiday" - of the State House tree again this year. By giving effectively no notice for the tree lighting, the Governor was attempting to minimize the consequences to himself of this inexplicable decision by putting the lighting ceremony behind him. "See? I held a tree lighting. Now let's move on." Regrettably, however, at noon today, he only succeeded in exacerbating and dragging out the situation.

October 10, 2012

Cato Gives Governor Chafee a D in Fiscal Policy

Justin Katz

In a white paper out yesterday from the Cato Institute, Governor Lincoln Chafee (as the chief executive of the Rhode Island government) received a score of D for fiscal policy.  His score of 41 is based on spending, revenue, and tax changes that he proposed and/or that were implemented under his watch from January 2010 to August 2012, and marks him as the seventh worst governor for fiscal policy.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

December 30, 2011

Surprise -- Governor Chafee Considering Tax Increases to Balance Next Year's Budget

Carroll Andrew Morse

On the last weekday of 2011, David Klepper of the Associated Press writes what could be the least surprising news story of the year (h/t WPRO News)...

As he prepares for his second year in office, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee is looking for ways to spur the state's frail economy, rescue its struggling cities and eliminate another year's budget deficit -- possibly through additional taxes...

Chafee estimates that the state will face a $120 million deficit in next year's budget. While that's an improvement over the $300 million deficit lawmakers eliminated in the current year's budget, Chafee says the red ink will be difficult to erase through cuts alone. He wouldn't offer specifics but said he's weighing the possibility of recommending some form of tax increase.

Let me take this opportunity to remind readers that both during the 2010 Rhode Island Gubernatorial campaign, and immediately after the election, I asked Governor Chafee through his campaign/transition team if he would be willing to answer a set of questions that included this one...
4.The combined state and municipal budgets for Rhode Island have grown steadily (adjusted for inflation) over the past 10 years, a period of time which includes September 11, 2001 and its immediate aftermath, the end-of-the-financial world as we knew it in 2008, and the relative lull (at least domestically) in between.

Is it by design or by accident that government has been growing as if on autopilot -- or would you disagree with that characterization entirely? Compared with 10 years ago, are Rhode Islanders getting more in return for their increased spending?

The response I received, the second time I asked, was...
We do not agree with the premise of these questions.

December 6, 2011

If Christmas Is One of the Holidays Being Celebrated, What Is It That's Wrong with a Christmas Tree?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Just in case the point hasn't been made yet: Governor Lincoln Chafee's decision that he'd like the word Christmas hidden from public view to the degree he can control, for reasons of "inclusiveness", at a statehouse "holiday" celebration that has something to do with this time of year, is not coherent. If the holidays being celebrated today include Christmas, then there should be no problem calling a Christmas tree a Christmas tree. But if Christmas is regarded by the official host of today's affair as a curse-word likely to give offense, then it makes little sense to recognize the event a celebration of Christmas -- in turn raising the question of what exactly it is that's being celebrated.

The ambiguity leaves citizens who want to celebrate Christmas in an awkward position. Are we expected to celebrate whatever the state tells us to celebrate at the designated date and time, regardless of meaning? Or should we be happy to be admitted through the metaphorical back entrance to the celebration, warmly invited to participate, so long as we don't talk too obviously about our reason for showing up?

It's hard to see how putting people into this quandry can turn out well, or why a leader should want to create this problem for his fellow citizens in the first place.


In his weekly column on the WPRO website, Matt Allen has a view on the question of why...

The real reason why Governor Chafee is calling the state tree a Holiday Tree instead of a Christmas tree is to lecture you on the “proper” way to operate a society in a progressive fashion. This move is reminiscent of the infamous “guns and religion” comments made by President Obama. These political twin brothers both have this idea that people who take part in old customs like putting up a Christmas Tree in a public place are behind the times and need to step into a more diverse and global society. Because they worship government and government programs as the one true savior they look at people with traditional American values as cavemen who haven’t yet discovered fire.

Gregg Easterbrook on the Holiday Tree

Carroll Andrew Morse

In his pro-football column for ESPN, Gregg Easterbrook (who has written about the subject Christmas decorations for years, mostly on the subject of how they come out much too early for his tastes) offers various thoughts on the RI "Holiday Tree" controversy, including...

It is yet another sign of the low state of political discourse that the governor of Rhode Island doesn't know the difference between religious and secular symbols. One reason respect for government keeps declining is that public figures, such as Gov. Chafee, make themselves look ridiculous on basic subjects. If a governor of a state makes himself look ridiculous on something a schoolchild can understand, how can government be trusted with complex matters? And whether a holiday frill is a "holiday" tree or a "Christmas" tree is a trifling matter, but speaks to the inability of modern political correctness to use straightforward language. As Orwell warned, we cannot think clearly unless we call things what they are.

December 5, 2011

Yes, Reverend, What We Call It Matters

Justin Katz

The annual battle over Christmas terminology isn't a sport for which I have much enthusiasm, the lines having been drawn and a general consensus reached. As a matter of governance, I think that local governments ought to be able to reflect the makeup of their communities, if that's what the folks who live there want, and that deliberately running from a religious reference is tantamount to unconstitutional expression of governmental religious preference. But this is ground that's been covered over and over.

It is telling that Governor Lincoln Chafee couldn't even muster a nod, as governor, to his ideological opponents and, acknowledging the General Assembly's action early in the year asking public officials to refer to such decorations as "Christmas trees," do so as a symbolic gesture of respect and concession. In Chafee, we find an ideologue who thinks sticking to his guns makes him a centrist.

More interesting, in my view, are the thoughts of Executive Minister of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches Rev. Don Anderson:

I would ask my fellow Christians, with all of the poverty, hunger and injustice that surround us, do we really believe that Jesus would have us spend all this time and energy around what we call a tree? I would suggest that if we truly want to honor the birth of Jesus, let us be found honoring and serving one another in recognition and thanksgiving for what God has done for us.

What Anderson elides is that Jesus' mission wasn't merely one of social work, but also of conversion. Recall the anointing at Bethany:

... a woman came up to him with an alabaster jar of costly perfumed oil, and poured it on his head while he was reclining at table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant and said, "Why this waste? It could have been sold for much, and the money given to the poor."

Since Jesus knew this, he said to them, "Why do you make trouble for the woman? She has done a good thing for me. The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have me.

Immediately thereafter, in the book of Matthew, Judas agrees to betray Jesus — although whether in reaction to His dalliance in material pleasure or with the understanding that he is helping to fulfill Jesus' plan makes for an interesting theological debate. More relevant to the current controversy, however, is the simple fact of Jesus' statement that His bodily presence supersedes in importance the existence of material poverty.

Above everything, in the Christian interpretation, Jesus gave a face to God, as a model and guide. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus intermixes the admonition to do good for others as a way of doing good for Him with the command to spread His Word so that others will do the same. That is, why Christians have good will toward men is as important as that they do.

Happily, most people still understand (for the time being, at least) that a "holiday tree" is really a "Christmas tree," and related to a holiday celebrating the birth of the Messiah who taught these lessons, so little is lost by not naming the holiday at a tree lighting. (Of course, euphemism can be a species of dishonesty.) But Anderson's dismissal of the issue strikes me as a reckless exercise in political correctness that, if taken to the extreme that it often is, will ultimately undermine both the recognition of Christ and His explanation for the commandment to help others.

Ross Douthat expressed an applicable sentiment in a print National Review essay about the (mostly secular) pilgrimage movie, The Way:

In reality, religion — and more particularly, Catholicism — has everything to do with why The Way packs both an artistic and a metaphysical punch. Both the aesthetic and the spiritual realms thrive on specificity: on iconography that refers to something in particular, on moral frameworks that provide guidance for hard cases as well as general admonitions. Without these specifics, there would be no Santiago de Compostela, no Camino for the doubting modern pilgrims of The Way to walk, no sins to be forgiven, and no one to offer absolution.

After all, if the inspiration for decorating a tree is of no consequence, the inspiration for building magnificent churches must be as well, and so too the inspiration for making of our lives shrines to the God whom we are to see in the faces of our fellow men and women. Simply doing good deeds may be adequate for a generation or two, but eventually, people will forget the true names of the symbols and the explanation for their good behavior. God's voice will remain in us, calling through our consciences, but if that is enough, then why did He send his Son on Christmas Day only to be killed on Good Friday?

November 29, 2011

So If the Governor Holds a Hanukkah Celebration at the State House, Will He Call it the "Candle Holiday"?

Monique Chartier

... at which he displays a candelabra rather than a menorah?

In view of his renaming of this event,

Governor Chafee is facing criticism from State Representatives for calling the annual tree lighting in the state house a "holiday" tree lighting instead of a Christmas tree lighting.

the Governor should clarify how far he believes we should go with taking the religion out of holidays. Or does it only need to happen with one religion in particular?

[WPRO's John Depetro has started a petition on his Facebook Page.]


Depetro just read a statement from the Governor pointing out that referring to this event as a "holiday tree lighting" continues past practices of prior governors. I would suggest that the Governor needs to correct this erroneous blandizing of the event and revert to its more accurate name. Certainly the Governor did not allowed precedent to stop him from taking a new direction in another matter.

October 11, 2011

An Inapplicable Model

Justin Katz

Honestly, something about Governor Chafee's fact-finding missions makes me very nervous. Consider this, from his latest trip, to Pittsburgh. It focuses on the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), which is attracting all sorts of federal money and expanding the prominence of the University's medical program:

Dr. Edward Wing, now dean of medicine and biological sciences at Brown's Alpert Medical School, worked 23 years at the University of Pittsburgh. He notes that the western Pennsylvania medical school — with massive collaboration, clinical-research dollars and consolidation — has since catapulted from the middle of the pack to among the nation's top-tier medical schools.

UPMC is now a $9-billion global health enterprise that operates more than 20 hospitals and 400 outpatient sites; employs more than 2,800 physicians and 54,000 employees; ranks as western Pennsylvania’s largest employer and the state’s second-largest. ...

In the midst of the tour, Wing noted, "It's very hierarchical, so they can make decisions easy. It's much harder in Providence." ...

At UPMC, it's clear that money drives activity.

So, you've got a massive, hierarchical structure fueled with giant infusions of public money and absolutely central to the local economy. That sounds extremely risky, and while I don't know enough about Pennsylvania politics to know how they're handling it, out there, I simply wouldn't trust the power brokers of Rhode Island with such an entity.

And that's if the feat would be possible to reproduce. One need only look at a map to see one way in which Pittsburgh differs tremendously from Providence: There's no urban competition in proximity. We've got Boston and New York City within easy striking distance.

The governor should turn his sights away from top-down behemoths and look toward making Rhode Island notable, in the crowded Northeast, for being an easy and inexpensive place to start and grow business. Our economic development people look to UPMC and see the flow of money that they could use to get entrepreneurs and innovators over the hump of high expenses and difficulty, in RI, when they should be looking to flatten it, instead.

October 6, 2011

The Governor's Evasive Principles on Immigration

Justin Katz

It's been a few weeks since he made it, but I didn't want to let Governor Chafee's statement on in-state tuition for illegal immigrants go without comment:

"I have long been a supporter of efforts to encourage college attendance among students who, through no fault of their own, do not have full residency status," Chafee said.

He continued: "All that separates these young people from the thousands of other students who gain entry to Rhode Island's public colleges and universities each year is the place where they were born -- a factor none of us can control."

Place of birth is in no sense the issue; plenty of people not born in the United States have made their way to Rhode Island in such a way as to be eligible for in-state tuition. At issue, with immigration, is the right of the people of the United States to regulate the flow of foreigners into their country. That cannot be accomplished by walls and force alone, so it is critical to temper the lure of illegal entry by reducing the benefits that its practitioners seek to acquire and increasing the difficulty of operation within the country for those who have come here through improper channels.

October 5, 2011

Erroneous, One-Sided Public Discourse Misleads on Tuition

Justin Katz

As news consumers across the nation and the globe are aware, on Monday, September 26, the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education approved a policy granting in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants who attended local high schools. As recently as this spring, the General Assembly explicitly declined to join the twelve other states that offer this concession, so it is a matter of some controversy that an unelected board has cemented RI's reputation for diluted democracy by making ours the second to join the list as a matter of policy, not law.*

With this issue, as with many others, our drift toward unabashed aristocracy is abetted by a lack of balance in the public debate, locally. The problem goes much deeper than mere media bias, down to the data on which discussion and decisions are based. In this case, a report from the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University has enjoyed a near monopoly when it comes to research citations — from radio to Web sites, from television to print.

Even just in the A section of this Sunday's Providence Journal, the institute's findings received two high-profile mentions. The first came in a characteristically unfair PolitiFact take-down of Terry Gorman, executive director of Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement. According to journalist Lynn Arditi, the study "showed that 74 undocumented students were attending one of the three public institutions of higher education in Rhode Island in 2009."

The second mention came from Board of Governors member Lorne Adrain, in an op-ed written on behalf of his fellow members. Adrain explains that their decision was based, in part, on the study's suggestion that "our state schools will still experience net new revenues from the policy."

Both assertions are demonstrably false. At a basic level, the study has broadly been assumed to deal with illegal immigrants (or "undocumented," if you prefer), although the term in the title and throughout the document is "non-citizens," which the authors never define. Thus, the report's executive summary cites the U.S. Census's 2009 American Community Survey, finding 69,757 "non-citizens" in Rhode Island, meaning that many residents counted as "not a U.S. citizen," no matter their legal status, as a few clicks at census.gov prove.

Something similar is true of the "74 non-citizen undergraduate students attending" public college. This data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics, and what it actually tallies are all "nonresident aliens" enrolled in RI's public undergraduate system. Clicking "i" for information brings up the following definition: "A person who is not a citizen or national of the United States and who is in this country on a visa or temporary basis and does not have the right to remain indefinitely."

The NCES may or may not have slipped illegal immigrants into that total, but it appears mainly intended to indicate students temporarily in the United States pursuing degrees. The new tuition policy will not apply to such "international" students. Moreover, legal-immigrant residents, whom the NCES counts among the general student body, appear already to be eligible for in-state tuition.

But let's pretend that the Latino Policy Institute's report actually addresses the students affected by the Board of Governor's new policy. That is, for the sake of argument, let's say that there are 74 illegal immigrant undergrads currently attending the University of Rhode Island (with 38), Rhode Island College (with 21), and the Community College of Rhode Island (with 15), and that in-state tuition will attract another 12 to URI, 7 to RIC, and 5 to CCRI. Will that increase in enrollment yield "net new revenues," as Mr. Adrain claims?

The Latino Policy Institute gives that impression by factoring in the "FTE instructional cost" for each institution, or the amount that it spends on a narrow range of expenses specifically filed under "instruction." The Institute subtracts that number from the tuition and counts the difference as a profit. Thus, the authors claim that "the enrollment of non-citizens would result in roughly $162,000 in revenue to public institutes of higher education per year."

The glaring error in this argument is that the "net new revenue" is not coming from "net new students." At out-of-state tuition rates, those 74 students are currently paying $1,435,010 in tuition. Give them the in-state rate, and the colleges and university are looking at a total tuition loss of $881,530. The 24 new students whom the lower tuition would supposedly attract would only bring the loss down to $703,586.

It's worth repeating that these headcounts are essentially made up. If illegal immigrants count among those here on a "temporary basis," there would be many fewer of them; if they count among those "who have been admitted as legal immigrants for the purpose of obtaining permanent resident alien status," there could be many more. In any case, the question of whether new illegal immigrant students provide a profit or require a subsidy would have to be the subject of another essay. (I'd argue that they represent a net cost of thousands of dollars each per year.)

At the very least, one can say that an unelected board should not be implementing public policy in lieu of duly passed laws, especially on the basis of erroneous and one-sided research. The Board of Governors should rescind its decision, and the civic society of Rhode Island should find a way to foster better-rounded public discourse.

* I attempted to change the Providence Journal version of this essay (which appears in the paper today) to reflect an AP report that specifically cited 12 other states that offer in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, with Oklahoma having already blazed the trail of doing so via policy. Either my correction came too late, or the Projo's findings differ from those of the AP.


I've corrected Lorne Adrain's gender in the above, and I apologize for the error. The only other "Lorne" I've ever heard of is Lorne Michaels from Saturday Night Live, and for some reason, my initial feeling that it was a woman's name never went away, despite knowing that Michaels is a man. Fortunately, though, my argument does not rely whatsoever on the personal qualities of the people whom I mention, and even if it did, I provided links to all of my sources, so readers can check my results on their own.

With all of the time that I spent culling data, I didn't have time to research Mr. Adrain's biography, which after all, is entirely irrelevant.

October 4, 2011

Analyzing the Civics of the Board of Governor's Illegal Immigrant In-State Tuition Policy Change

Carroll Andrew Morse

Determining whether it was a legitimate exercise of authority for the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education to make certain illegal immigrants eligible for in-state tuition at RI public colleges and universities takes us into a murky borderland in the civic landscape occupied by "public corporations" and "quasi-public entities" that have been created by governments to provide "non-public" goods or services. (In economic parlance, a "non-public" good or service is one that can be parceled out in a manner such that those who want it can spend what they want for it, and those don't want it don't have to buy any at all).

Whether government should ever create “public corporations” or other "quasi-public" bodies for the provision of private goods and services is a valid question in itself, but given that such entities are already with us and making decisions that impact people's lives, the immediate focus needs to be on whether their actions directly violate the core principles of democratic governance. In the case of the BoGfHE’s illegal immigrant tuition “policy change”, this means making certain that the Board has not exceeded its authority by doing something that must be a legislative function, and that it has acted in a way that was a reasonable exercise of its statutory mandate.

To address these issues, it is useful to consider a "public corporation" that deals with a less controversial good or service (at least in this century) such as a state-run liquor store. While the legislature authorizes and defines the purpose of a state-run retailer, it is not left to a legislature, or a committee of legislators, or even a board that is hired and fired directly by the legislature to make day-to-day decisions on matters such as pricing and inventory. Indeed, allowing a legislature to directly exercise executive authority in such a manner would be the violation of the separation of powers principle.

Likewise, allowing the Board of Governors for Higher Education to manage tuition pricing is not in inherent conflict with the principle of separation of powers, so long as the board is acts in a manner that does not conflict with the law. And since Rhode Island law makes no significant mention of immigration status in the context of public higher education and Federal law is unclear, the Board's action is consistent with current law.

Of course, because a “public corporation” can do something does not mean that it should, and there is a strong case to be made that the unelected board of a public corporation should not be imposing measures which the legislature has had before it but decided not to enact. The flip-side of this is that if a legislative majority feels that the Board has stretched an ambiguity in the law beyond reasonableness, it is their right -- and their duty -- to clarify the ambiguity.

The legislature does not have to wait for the Board of Governors to rescind its tuition policy change to begin a move to reverse it. It is not the legislature that has to make its actions conform to those of the Board of Governors; it is the Board of Governors that must set policies that conform to the law. If a new section is added to Rhode Island law regarding public higher education, perhaps in the form of language similar to section 40-6-27.1(b) of current RI law, which prohibits giving certain public assistance benefits to illegal immigrants, then the BoGfHE would have to change its policies in response.

The action taken by the Board at this stage is no more permanent than any preliminary budget recommendation for spending money in the next fiscal year, and it is certainly not written in stone that any government department, never mind a government created corporation, must get everything that it asks for. Indeed, for those inclined to view this purely as a budgetary and fiscal issue, one option the legislature could pursue would be to cut the budget of the BoGfHE -- a budget item separate from that of any actual educational institution, and that costs Rhode Islanders about $7 million annually in operations and personnel -- by the amount needed to make-up the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition for the number of illegal immigrants expected to be admitted to RI colleges.

In the end, if a 3/5 majority of Rhode Island legislators think the Board of Governor's decision on in-state tuition for illegal immigrants is a bad idea, they can only be bypassed in our system of government if they allow themselves to be. (I am assuming that the current Governor of Rhode Island would veto a standalone bill on this subject, necessitating a veto override, although this matter would also be germane for inclusion in the annual budget bill, which could allow it to passed as part of the same 2/3 majority that has to approve the budget). Approval of the legislative leadership should not be any factor; if a supermajority wants a bill passed, there are various ways a bill can be brought to the floor, if the members value having something passed more than they value following leadership dictates. And if the voters believe that the Board's decision should be reversed, but their legislators refuse to act for whatever reason, then the people need to consider electing new legislators who will.

September 27, 2011

In-State Tuition for Illegals, Whether You Want to Pay for It or Not

Justin Katz

Last night, with the approval of RI's chief executive, Lincoln Chafee, the Board of Governors of Higher Education decided to act in lieu of the General Assembly and implement a policy of offering illegal immigrants in-state tuition rates for the state's public universities. That makes Rhode Island just the fourteenth state to be so generous, and the first to make the decision without involving the people's elected legislators.

The big lie of issue, which Ted Nesi describes here is that there is no cost to this decision — perhaps even an increase in revenue. I spent some time looking at the numbers, last night, and although I don't have time, this morning, to make my findings presentable for this post, I just don't see how that could possibly be so.

I'll show my work (as the math teachers say) in a future post, but in a nutshell, dividing the total operating costs of the University of Rhode Island by the number of full-time equivalent students suggests that the university has to make $20,615 per student. Clearly, total tuition and fees of $11,366 for in-state matriculating undergrads won't cut it. If, as advocates claim, in-state tuition were sufficient to educate a student, then the University ought to be investigated for price-gouging out-of state students, who pay $27,454.

September 22, 2011

"Exchange" as in Bait and Switch

Justin Katz

When I initially heard of the concept of state-government healthcare exchanges, my first thought was that only three insurers are willing to do business in Rhode Island — how extensive could such an exchange be? The hook by which Governor Chafee is presuming to step in and legislate via executive order to create Rhode Island's exchange raises more questions about what, exactly, they're planning to develop:

The state faces a Sept. 30 deadline to apply for tens of millions in federal money to develop the exchange, but needed to first establish the authority to create, govern and finance the exchange.

The model cited for the exchange is Travelocity and other comparison-shopping sites, but with three insurers to review, how could it possibly take "tens of millions" in (borrowed) federal dollars to put such a thing together? The state ought to be able to get somebody to pull together the necessary documents and deploy a slightly tweaked out-of-the-box search engine for under $100,000.

Apart from finding ways to spend taxpayer money that the state and federal governments do not have, Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts gives some indication of what the expanded scope of the exchange might be:

... Roberts said the exchange will provide more active assistance to people choosing health insurance. It may also set standards for the types of health insurance products offered.

Indeed, the executive order also explicitly calls for "payment reforms and innovative benefit designs" that promote quality and efficiency.

"One of the goals of this executive order is to create the infrastructure with some early goals," Roberts said. "A lot of those bigger issues are very appropriately going to be discussed by the board going forward."

As I've speculated before, the "exchange" is more of a bait-and-switch. As Roberts describes it, the site will either be a welfare-style means of drawing people toward taxpayer-subsidized programs, or it will grant a small range of technocrats the ability to shape everybody's healthcare programs in very detailed ways, or both. And a look at the board already in place to guide the thing is not encouraging:

In addition to [former U.S. Attorney Margaret] Curran, the chairwoman, the board's public members will include Vice Chairman Donald Nokes, president and co-founder of the small business NetCenergy; Michael C. Gerhardt, a former health insurance executive; James Grace, president and CEO, InsureMyTrip.com; Linda Katz, policy director and co-founder, The Poverty Institute; Peter Lee, president and CEO, John Hope Settlement House; Dr. Pamela McKnight (not currently practicing); Tim Melia, UFCW New England Council; and Minerva Quiroz, case manager, AIDS Project RI.

The government members are: Steven M. Costantino, secretary of Health and Human services; Christopher F. Koller, health insurance commissioner; Richard A Licht, director of administration; and Dr. Michael D. Fine, director of health.

In addition to the government bureaucrats, we've got a former lawyer, a former health insurance executive, a former doctor, two executives from businesses that offer related technology services, three paid activists, and the obligatory union representative. Not present is a single person who looks apt to approach this sly government power-grab from the perspective of Rhode Islanders' civil rights (in the government-limiting sense) or of protecting the free market or taxpayers' wallets. There isn't even anybody whose background suggests an especial concern with the ethical questions that inevitably arise in matters of medicine.

A further frightening thing is that the only organized voice that the reporter finds in opposition is Barth Bracy, of the Rhode Island Right to Life Committee. About the only other opposition that I've seen has come from Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the newly formed Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, in an op-ed arguing that the state should be wary of jumping into ObamaCare because many questions remain — not the least being whether the law will even remain in effect. For the most part, that's a statement of process, not of principle, although he does step beyond the practical argument a bit:

Government does poorly vs. the free market. The very idea of a government-controlled exchange is antithetical to our nation's historical free-market principles, which is the only proven way to consistently deliver a good service at the lowest possible rate. A true free-market is an exchange in itself!

Unfortunately, politicians (especially in Rhode Island) have long thought the handling of healthcare to be too important to leave to people who actually know what they're doing. Their exchanges will not be tools to guide consumers to the products that most closely align with their needs and resources, but to tell taxpayers how much they have to spend on healthcare, for what, and for whom.

August 27, 2011

When the Municipal Dictator Has a Political Boss

Justin Katz

Apparently, when a municipal dictator (i.e., a "receiver") deals with those who previously held power locally, it's one thing when that power derived from the voting public, but it's another when it derives from an organization that's politically connected at the state level:

Frank Flynn, president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers, which represents Central Falls, said he had appealed to Governor Chafee.

"We haven't met with the receiver, but we have spoken to the staff of the governor and we told them it was our intention to go to court and get a temporary restraining order," Flynn said. "The governor's office, through the receiver, asserted his authority to intervene."

And since the teachers' unions have such sway in the state:

Receiver Robert G. Flanders Jr., who is overseeing the bankruptcy filing of the state's smallest and poorest city, notified Gallo Friday afternoon that her authority to negotiate with the union was being revoked. He also revoked her plan to unilaterally impose new terms on the school district's 330 teachers on Sept. 1.

The district's negotiation team, which included Central Falls Board of Trustees Chairwoman Anna Cano-Morales and two parents, is also no longer included in the negotiating process.

Instead, Flanders or his designee and Deputy Education Commissioner David V. Abbott will participate in the talks. ...

"I asked him if the teachers' union negotiating team was also being replaced and he said no, they would remain," Gallo said.

Unless Flanders moves to impose new contract terms that are more harsh than Gallo's, the entire process will have further proven the bone-deep corruption of Rhode Island's political system. Voters across the state ought to be concerned at the ease with which democratic processes are being swept aside for the benefit of particular parties. And public-safety retirees from Central Falls ought to be livid.

July 24, 2011

An Interesting Whisper from the Governor to the Receiver

Justin Katz

This one nearly slipped through the cracks, inasmuch as I haven't noticed its being developed into a larger story:

The overseer of deficit-plagued Central Falls could be replaced just five months after he was appointed to steer the city through its dire fiscal straits.

Governor Chafee told public radio station WRNI that he is considering replacing the current state receiver with someone who has experience in municipal administration. Chafee appointed retired Supreme Court Justice Robert G. Flanders Jr. to manage Central Falls' finances in February.

You'll recall that Chafee bumped Flanders into the Central Falls dictator role as part of his overhaul of the previously reform-minded Board of Regents for the state's public schools. Interesting that the governor would let this little bird fly just a couple of weeks before Flanders was to bring down the big hammer on the public sector workers retired from the city that he's now running.

July 6, 2011

Gimme that Old-Tyme Constitutionalism!

Carroll Andrew Morse

The passage of the state budget, followed by a flurry of bills passed and not passed in the last week of the 2011 Rhode Island General Assembly session, were clear demonstrations of the value and the wisdom of two foundational principles of American constitutional governance.

1. The Division of Powers, more commonly referred to as the "Separation of Powers": In American-style constitutional systems, the Governor and the legislature both have a role in the making of laws, and it was this division of the lawmaking power that prevented an executive elected only by a plurality from imposing a tax policy that was unpopular with the majority. The legislature did their job of representing the 64% of the population who didn't vote for the current Governor or his program, accurately reflecting the fact that the Governor's high-profile taxation proposal was not popular or desired by the citizens of Rhode Island.

2. Bicameralism, Baby! The structure of two legislative chambers, neither of which owes its power to the other and both comprised of members who are electorally accountable to the people, was key in slowing down or stopping some of the legislation (the I-195 bill, binding arbitration) that otherwise would likely have been passed into law without appropriate time for public deliberation. Think how much different the outcome of the legislative session might have looked, if one individual like Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio could extend the power he holds over the Senate to the entire legislature. It is the bicameral structure of the legislature that prevents this from easily occurring.

There are often feelings that "old" structures of governance have only limited application in the modern world, but sometimes the structures of a venerable and tested system are exactly what is required to keep government responsive to the people.

Federalist 51 hits both the principles of the division of powers and bicameralism, for anyone interested in further thoughts on the subject.

June 3, 2011

To Whom Chafee Would Give a Refund

Justin Katz

Some last-minute budget amendments that Governor Lincoln Chafee has submitted to the General Assembly are telling with regard to his attitude and priorities:

In another budget amendment, [Budget Officer Thomas] Mullaney announced a "medical-benefit holiday" for state workers, that will spare them, for one pay period, of having to contribute to their health insurance benefits. ...

The reason: the state's numbers crunchers said they initially overestimated by $3.086 million how much the state is likely to need to cover the cost of the self-insured benefits.

So, in the governor's view, when the state overestimates the cost of employee benefits and budgets accordingly, it should in some way transfer the excess to employees. That's certainly defensible, and it might even be advisable, but then we move on a few paragraphs:

Asked how Chafee intends to pay for the 25 new DMV staffers and other additions to his original spending plan, spokesman Michael Trainor pointed to the recent upswing in revenue collections in the months since Chafee laid out his $7.66-billion budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. His new proposal stands at $7,753,482,420.

State budget analysts now believe revenue will run $53.8 million ahead of earlier estimates for the year that ends June 30, and $65.9 million ahead for the year that begins July 1.

That is, when the government collects more in taxes and fees than it expects, in the governor's view, it should spend every penny, mostly in ways that will build in the expenses for future budgets to, for example, pay for hired employees. As writer Kathrine Gregg goes on to note, the total increase in revenue projections is $113.3 million, which "could be used to offset the projected $331-million deficit next year."

Not if this governor has his way.

June 2, 2011

Accountability in Politics and Education

Justin Katz

The conversation was of the likely accountability that RI politicians will face for a vote on raising sales taxes and on perspectives on accountability in education during Andrew's call in to Matt Allen Show, last night. Stream by clicking here, or download it.

May 4, 2011

Comparative Budgets

Justin Katz

I don't know Providence finances well enough to quibble with Mayor Angel Tavares's budget proposal, but in emphasis and presentation it stands in stark contrast to Governor Lincoln Chafee. Tavares led with controversial and concrete initiatives for spending reduction, while Chafee led with a massive tax increase. Maybe they'll get to the same place — if the unions and the General Assembly refuse to go along with Tavares's plan, for one possibility — but I doubt it.

The mayor's budget contrasts with others in this respect:

His budget includes raising the tax levy by 5.25 percent—one percent more than what is currently allowed by state law.

That's being touted as a major "sharing of the pain," but from the perspective of Tiverton, it's less than the average annual tax increase over the past decade. It puts things in perspective for me that a city on the brink of catastrophe considers an extreme measure to be less than our business as usual.

I guess those who've run the government, in Tiverton, haven't been as keen on "sharing the pain" as inflicting it.

April 25, 2011

Vlog #11: A Speechification Coach for the Governor

Justin Katz

A little fun with juxtaposition:

April 21, 2011

Chafee Wants to Bite Charities and the American Flag

Justin Katz

The common wisdom is that Governor Lincoln Chafee's sales-tax scheme is dead — or rather, that at least the 1% section is. Still, something in this op-ed by a couple of YMCA officials inspired me to skim that section of the budget:

Article 26 of the budget would also remove the tax exemption for all charitable organizations and impose a 1 percent sales tax on their purchases. Together, these proposals would seriously hinder the ability of our Ys to continue to employ 2,100 staffers, serve 140,000 Rhode Islanders and provide $7 million in free, subsidized and sponsored programs every year.

Sure enough, the relevant language attempts to sink the taxman's teeth into charitable activities:

(8) Charitable, educational, and religious organizations. (i) The sale to charitable, educational and religious organizations as defined in this section and the storage use and other consumption of tangible personal property, specified digital property, and/or services as defined in § 44-18-7.3. This shall also include hospitals not operated for profit, “educational institutions” as defined in § 44-18-30(17) not operated for a profit, churches, orphanages, and other institutions or organizations operated exclusively for religious or charitable purposes, interest free loan associations not operated for profit, nonprof it organized sporting leagues and associations and bands for boys and girls under the age of nineteen (19) years, the following vocational student organizations that are state chapters of national vocational students organizations: Distributive Education Clubs of America, (DECA); Future Business Leaders of America, phi beta lambda (FBLA/PBL); Future Farmers of America (FFA); Future Homemakers of America/Home Economics Related Occupations (FHA/HERD); and Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA), organized nonprofit golden age and senior citizens clubs for men and women, and parent teacher associations. Sales made to the United States government, this state and its political subdivisions are exempt from this section.

If you haven't yet done so, it's worth your time to read through the tax-increasing portion of the budget; the effect is quite startling. For example, it's one thing to read the word "flags" on a list of newly taxed items; it's another to come across this:

(21) Flags. The sale, storage, consumption, or other use in this state of United States, Rhode Island or POW-MIA flags.

The governor wants to tax you on your American flag... which leads me back to my suspicion that this 1% section is mostly political. It links the budget to Chafee's campaign promises, but it's so egregious, so magnificently objectionable, that the outrage was sure to give the General Assembly cover not only to go against the governor's plan (in the eyes of his puppeteers), but also to move forward with the new 6% tax on other new items, including services, perhaps with some of the less objectionable 1% items (involving constituencies that have less political sway) added to the list.

April 14, 2011

The Consistent(ly bad) Governor

Justin Katz

Before the news cycle moves on, I'd like to highlight the following, from Philip Marcelo's story on the tax-increase dispute:

One floor up from where business leaders gathered, in a room adjacent to his office, the governor repeated his challenge to detractors: provide an alternative solution, and be specific. ...

Chafee rejected business leaders’ arguments that the tax plan would hurt job creation. "Show me the evidence," he said.

The Chafee administration's attitude is entirely in keeping with the theme that inspired Anchor Rising's very first "Chafeedom" post. You'll recall that, soon after his election, Chafee evinced a pattern of declining to meet with advocates who disagreed with him on their particular issues. Supposedly, he'd already conducted all the meetings he needed and didn't think any more would be constructive. The ban on participation in and denunciation of talk radio soon followed.

Now, those who oppose his tax-increasing ways are called upon to show him evidence and propose solutions that he'll find acceptable. Only, one would be entirely rational to suppose that acceptability is a false hurdle, impossible to clear.

Mixing in the fact that "his administration could not produce an analysis on the potential impact to businesses," it's clear that this guy really doesn't care for discussion and open discourse, as he claims. That's just an illusion (fooling, most of all, the governor himself) accomplished by always insisting that the other side has to do more while one's own view is correct by assumption.

April 12, 2011

Chafee Whines

Marc Comtois

WPRI's Ted Nesi reports that Governor Chafee just can't understand why people are so opposed to raising taxes. He blames the Providence Journal.

The Providence Journal is “hurting Rhode Island” with its barrage of negative editorials, advertisements and articles about the Chafee administration’s sales tax proposal, the governor told WPRI.com on Monday.
He blames former Governor Carcieri.
Chafee said the first suggestion – renegotiating contracts – is nearly impossible because of a two-year ban on state worker layoffs agreed to by Carcieri in late 2009. “Mayor Taveras is not saddled with a no-layoff contract,” Chafee said. “He can go to his union and say there will be layoffs – and they know that there will be layoffs. I can’t do that.”

Asked whether he had approached Council 94 and other unions about concessions anyway, Chafee said he didn’t see the point when he could not threaten layoffs and might just add to the existing unhappiness about previous furloughs and his proposed hike in employee pension contributions.

“I’ll look for savings, but I don’t want to go into a meeting with no cards in my hand,” he said.

B.S. "I can't do that." Ask N.J. Governor Chris Christie. Meanwhile, he continues to throw out the red herring of "show me the alternative" when it's obvious there is nothing anyone can propose that resembles actual cutting that he will consider as a "real" alternative. As Dan Yorke noted today, this is all so disingenuous given that it was the Chafee Administration that did little-to-no due diligence on the impact of this proposed "flatten and broaden" tax increases in the first place. So instead Chafee whines and obfuscates. Such a leader.

April 4, 2011

Chafee Tells Critics to "Show me the cuts"

Marc Comtois

WRNI's Ian Donnis has this from Governor Chafee:

I haven’t heard from anybody how to get out of the $295 million hole. There’s just been critic after critic without offering any constructive alternative — and I’m still waiting. I’m open-minded to anybody who has a better idea.
Now that's someone in a bubble. Or someone playing word games. Define "constructive" alternative. How about "better" idea? Enough wiggle room for you? The ideas that the governor doesn't WANT to hear have been out there: across the board cuts, salary freezes (no COLA, no raises), renegotiate Health care co-share, reform pensions, etc. See, the problem is that the aforementioned require HARD decisions or HARD work. Nothing is EASIER than raising taxes.

March 29, 2011

Chafee Proposes Beach Fee Raise, Explains How to Circumvent It

Marc Comtois

Only in the Chafeedom....First, Governor Chafee proposed doubling the fees for accessing state beaches.

Under the plan, season passes would double, from $30 to $60 for residents and $60 to $120 for non-residents. Weekend daily parking would increase from $7 to $15 for residents and from $14 to $25 for non-residents.

A legislative panel reviewed the changes last week. The fee increase would raise an estimated $1.9 million.

Then, when interviewed about it, explains how people can circumvent the fee increase by "doubling up" in cars as they visit the state beaches.

This is basically an admission that tax increases affect the behavior of the people being taxed, right? So, about that $1.9 million revenue increase, Governor.....

March 18, 2011

Studying Chafee Budget: Moving FTEs Around

Marc Comtois

I start with a chart. A chart of the Full-Time Equivalent positions (FTEs) in the major departments of Rhode Island government from 2009 thru Governor Chafee's 2012 Budget Proposal. I've also included some specific sub-departments if I thought they warranted particular scrutiny. The major departments are bolded while the sub's are regular font.

2009201020112012Chafee ChangeChange 09-12
General Gov't2,308.302,409.802,480.302,259.30-221.00-49.00
Labor and Training395.30514.40512.20470.20-42.0074.90
Governor Office39.0044.0045.0045.000.006.00
Human Services3,474.103,368.503,645.203,651.706.50177.60
Veterans Affairs---268.20268.20268.20
Off. HHS85.1052.9077.60149.0071.4063.90
Human Services884.60919.70988.20674.00-314.20-210.60
Elementary Ed311.40315.80348.40348.400.0037.00
Higher Ed3,395.003,342.203,432.103,449.6017.5054.60
Public Safety2,971.502,951.803,006.603,186.60180.00215.10
Public Safety396.10418.60423.20603.20180.00207.10
Natural Resources445.00438.50446.00446.000.001.00
Total Non-sponsored13,689.9013,653.1014,222.6014,205.60-17.00515.70

There are a couple notes in the Budget:

(1) In FY 2010 Fire Code Board was moved to Department of Administration.
(2) Agencies merged with Department of Public Safety include State Police, Fire Marshal, E-911 Emergency Telephone System, Municipal Police Training Academy,Capitol Police, and the Governor’s Justice Commission.
Obviously, while it looks like Governor Chafee is cutting 17 positions, overall, the number of Non-Sponsored (ie; no Federal subsidization--the state is on the hook) state government is still up 515.7 FTEs since 2009! Further, while we see big cuts in some departments and big increases in others, the reality is that the Governor is mostly just moving people around, which is part of his consolidation effort that is supposed to save money. Let's take a closer look at that.

180 Sheriff Department positions moved from Dep't Admin to Public Safety. A review of the budget shows that the 2011 expenditure is basically being carried over to 2012, although in a different spot. (It's hard to tell exactly as they merged the benefits, OT, etc. with Capitol Police in the accounting). Essentially, the Chafee Administration has simply moved 180 jobs and $15 million from one spot to another.

With the creation of a new Veterans Administration Department, there was an increase of 229.2 FTE's (when the VA was under Human Services) to 268.2 FTEs, for a net increase of 39 jobs added. While under HHS, the VA cost $23,598,637. With the move to its own department, the Chafee budget has expenditures at $23,065,489 for a savings of $533,148 (even with adding jobs). Interesting and, well, color me skeptical.

Finally, there were 81 Positions removed from Health Care Quality, Financing, Purchasing with 71 of those moving to the Office of Health and Human Services for a savings of $2,621,534 (Finally!).

As for real cuts, the Department of Labor and Training saw a cut of 42 FTEs, all from the Workforce Development office. Interestingly enough, though, the cost per FTE actually goes up. The total FTEs in 2011 for the Office was 177.5 at a cost of $13,657,808 or $76,945 per FTE (salary + benefits). The 2012 FTE total is 143.0 at a cost of $13,181,920 or $92,181 per FTE. Sounds like a lot of cuts on the bottom and not so much off the top.

Alternatively, for the DCYF FTE reductions, they are actually "Program Reductions" (ie; no specific FTE reduction is outlined) split between Juvenile Correctional Services and Child Welfare. I believe this is anticipated reduction via natural attrition; otherwise known as "crossing your fingers". Even with these reductions, the overall cost for 2012 over 2011 for DCYF FTEs is $1.5 million.

Basically, going by just the FTEs, there has been no savings: 17 FTE cuts aren't enough. The larger point that needs to be hammered home is that Rhode Island government has created over 500 new positions in just the last 3 years! That includes what I believe are 6 high-level (read: high cost) positions in the Governor's Office (put there under Governor Carcieri). Governor Chafee's answer is to offer more taxes instead of cutting positions that we didn't need 3 years ago.

ADDENDUM: One area where there are actual job cuts is in the Department of Labor and Training, where 42 positions are being cut. As Andrew noted in the comments, however, those jobs were probably directly funded by Federal stimulus money. In other words, these are cuts forced upon the Chafee administration because Federal funding is going away.

Overall, even after taking away the 42 jobs as proposed by Governor Chafee, there have been 75 jobs created in the DLT since 2009 and a concomitant increase in the budget. Perhaps, whenever the Federal Stimulus money dries up, those last 75 positions will also be reduced out of necessity, not out of any proactive motive on the Governor's part.

SOURCE: Individual department personnel supplements can be found here.

Covering Criticism of the Governor

Justin Katz

It's almost humorous. The Providence Journal's PolitiFact team couldn't do otherwise than find that Lincoln Chafee broke his campaign promise not to raise taxes without first relieving the burden of state mandates on cities and towns. As if to counter that affront to media darling, on the same page, they declared that he kept his promise to seek a two-tiered sales tax.

From a certain point of view, I suppose that is a promise kept, but as I've pointed out before, the supposed fact checkers slant the results by picking which part (or variation) of a statement they examine for truth. In that context, consider even this part of their explanation:

Chafee said then that state leaders should carefully examine the possibility of a two-tiered sales tax that would continue the 7-percent tax on many items and charge a 1-percent sales tax on the long list of exempt items that, according to a 2008 Division of Taxation study, account for more than $625.6 million in potential state revenue.

If all the exempt items were taxed at 1 percent, Chafee said, the state could raise an additional $89.4 million in revenue.

What Chafee has actually suggested is to apply 6% to to some exempt items and 1% to others, thereby raising about double the taxes that he initially sought. At the very least, that's a promise half-kept, but from my perspective, it constitutes a full break.

March 17, 2011

The Governor's Faith That You Don't Matter

Justin Katz

Here's an interesting tidbit from Ed Achorn:

I asked Governor Chafee last week whether he, or anyone in his administration, had done an analysis of the number of jobs that his tax hikes would cost the state, since many financially stressed Rhode Islanders would respond by traveling the short distance to neighboring states for goods and services.

After three rounds of spin by Mr. Chafee and his aides, I finally got the governor's answer on the fourth try:


The loss of such private-sector jobs seem to be of little concern.

To take the charitable view, it might just be that Chafee and his administration lack the competence to ask and answer such difficult questions. It's much easier to simply calculate a tax as if it will have no effect on the behavior being taxed. One would think, though, that some effort might have been made to figure out what incentives would be created by the new taxes and what ripples would therefore be likely.

Be that as it may, government budgeting isn't ultimately a matter of predicting revenue and planning expenses on its basis. Rather, it's ultimately a matter of making the books appear balanced to conform with the law and adjusting later when financial reality gives the politicians excuses to act. In the case of the current governor, it seems likely that, when revenue doesn't increase as much as he expects and when his meager and vague cuts and efficiencies don't produce the predicted savings, he'll seek to increase taxation yet again. More of that shared sacrifice... meaning that taxpayers share the sacrifice among themselves to support government.

March 15, 2011

The Tax List

Justin Katz

Perusing the list of items that Governor Chafee wishes to move from tax-exempt to taxable, I came across this peculiar item, sure to help grow the economy:

Employment agency services

Sure, employment agencies are arguably unnecessary middlemen in employment chain, but they're a halfway step for businesses looking to ease into hiring. And they're now going to have to add 6% to the cost of the transaction or just absorb it.

I also like this item, on the 1% list:

Transfers or sales made to immediate family members

Don't forget to file the appropriate form Ma and Pa! Uncle Linc is watching.

March 14, 2011

The Biggest Tax Increase... and on Whom?

Justin Katz

Here's a point worth restating throughout the current session of the General Assembly (emphasis added):

By broadening the general sales tax and levying a new 1 percent tax, Chafee's budget would raise about $165 million in new tax revenue — even after taking into account the drop in the general sales tax rate. That would be one of the biggest tax increases in state history — if not the biggest, according to Gary S. Sasse, former state revenue director and now distinguished professor of public policy at Rhode Island College.

Whether Governor Chafee's manages to improve the state's ranking when it comes to taxation schemes, his solution to balancing the state's budget is to raise taxes on a population that's already heavily taxed. And it's not a neutral increase; there's a shift in burden involved. Consider (emphasis added):

Rep. Thomas Winfield, D-Smithfield, said that when he stopped for coffee at Fast Freddie's, in Greenville, a crowd of angry people objected to applying sales taxes to such a long list of items. When asked how he'd respond to the Fast Freddie's crowd, [Chafee Director of Administration Richard] Licht said that lowering the sales tax rate from 7 percent to 6 percent would save people money on big-ticket items, so they'd "pay a little more for their haircut but they'll save on their car."

Frankly, my family can no longer afford "big-ticket items." Chafee's revenue increase, in other words, leverages my basics to subsidize somebody else's luxuries. Would it be too cynical to discern the policy's hidden objective as making sure that Rhode Islanders have nowhere to hide from the taxman, even during times of economic hardship?

Yea or nay, the effect is once again that Rhode Island would turn the screw even more tightly on those who are struggling to get by and striving to advance.

March 11, 2011

New Taxables

Marc Comtois

Ted Nesi has put up a list of newly-taxed items being proposed by Governor Chafee. I've copied it after the jump. As a commenter to Ted noted:

...the fact Rhode Island has so many sales tax exemptions is interesting in and of itself. The state has a total of 82 exemptions, 20 of which have been added over just the past 19 years, according to the Chafee administration.
Special deals? Naw.

Continue reading "New Taxables"

March 10, 2011

Chafee Shows Us Who's Boss

Justin Katz

Another interesting fact emerges when comparing Governor Carcieri's last five-year forecast with Governor Chafee's first. This table shows the degree of change that the former has made from the latter forecast:

2012 2013 2014 2015
Personnel expense -$16.8 M -$12.3 M -$27.9 M -$45.5 M
State operations (including personnel) -$43.7 M -$38.4 M -$53.6 M -$71.3 M
Aid to local governments $13.6 M $69.1 M $100.1 M $139.7 M

So, for 2015, if we find the difference between the amount that Chafee intends to increase revenue ($302.5 M) over and above the amount that he plans to reduce the deficit ($240 M), we get $62.5 M. Add that to his reduction in operations (however fanciful that may actually prove to be), and we wind up with $133.8 M, which is almost the amount by which he's increasing the aid to local governments, most of which winds up in the hands of municipal-level unions, including his biggest supporters, the teachers' unions.

So, tax and fee payers are paying the entirety of Chafee's deficit reduction, and state workers are picking up the bill for a good chunk of the wealth being funneled to their comrades at the local and city level.

Deficit Hawk... Not So Much

Justin Katz

Sadly, whatever else they might say, people seem to believe Governor Lincoln Chafee's characterization of himself as a deficit hawk. Indeed, following a press briefing from State Budget Officer Thomas Mullaney, which Ian Donnis mentions here, Ted Nesi put up a post titled "Chafee's budget shrinks Carcieri's long-term deficits." And indeed, although Nesi's accompanying chart shows Chafee's deficits increasing over time, they appear to be about a quarter-billion dollars below what Carcieri predicted for the same years.

Of course, as Nesi writes:

... the easiest way to eliminate the deficit isn't through tinkering with revenue and expenditures — it's through healthy economic growth. A growing economy simultaneously boosts tax revenue as employment increases and profits rise while easing demand for social safety-net programs like jobless benefits.

In that context, it's worth noting that Governor Carcieri's last five-year forecast assumed "that recovery in the Rhode Island economy does not take hold until FY 2012, while Chafee's version assumes "that recovery in the Rhode Island economy started in FY 2011." Consequently, Chafee assumes revenue growth of 3.1%, while Carcieri's budget forecast put revenue growth at 2.1%.

So, some of Chafee's hawkishness is facilitated by a sunnier outlook. Carcieri predicted the income of Rhode Islanders to grow at a rate of 4.1% and employment at 2.3%, while Chafee expects 4.4% income and 2.5% employment growth.

Of course, Chafee isn't just sitting still and letting revenue increase because Rhode Islanders are making more money; he's raising taxes. If we compare the amount that Chafee is decreasing the "Carcieri deficits" with the amount that he's proposing to increase taxes over the same period, we get the following:

In the first year for which both forecasts offer data, 77% of Chafee's deficit reduction derives from new revenue, 74% from tax increases alone, 61% from a sales and use tax increase. By the end of the four year span, tax increases will represent 136% of the deficit reduction. In other words, our deficit hawk is finding taxpayer money to be such attractive prey that he's using it to grow expenditures, even as he allows deficits to grow year after year.

Indeed, over the latter four years of his forecast, Carcieri expected deficits to grow by 48%, while during the latter four hears of his own forecast, Chafee's deficit will grow by 227%. And that's assuming he gets all of the concessions that he's looking for from labor and the General Assembly and that his tax increases perform as well as expected. In summary, Chafee moved the economic recovery up a year and increased taxes, and still his deficits catch up to Carcieri's at a rate of approximately $40 million per year.

Naming the Broader Tax Base

Justin Katz

Matt and I talked budget and a "broader tax base" for Governor Chafee's sales tax on Matt Allen Show, last night. Stream by clicking here, or download it.

March 9, 2011

RE: Budget Thoughts

Marc Comtois

To fall into a political trap, as Justin suggests I have done, one would first have to take the bait. To stretch the metaphor further, I didn't take the Governor's budget bait--much less get caught in a trap--so much as look at the bait (tax "cuts") and offer a few observations. If anything, maybe I'm guilty of assuming the trap was self-evident (even though I pointed out some of its mechanisms--tax/fee increases, tolls). OK, enough of the metaphor-stretching.

I know what Justin was getting at when he wrote "It is insufficient to go through a budget proposals as if it were itemized lists of distinct suggestions." We agree, I think, that the general thrust of a budget proposal is more important than the sum of its parts in how it tips the hand of a Governor. But, questions of relative importance aside, my post was about "some of those parts" (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk), no more, no less. I didn't call it "A Comprehensive Budget Review" or "Chafee's Budget: A Holistic Conservative Response" or even "On Linc: The Hem-Hawed, un-TelePrompTered Propositions of a Horse-shoeing, Silver-Spoon Sucking Scion". I called it "Budget Thoughts" and offered a few.

I think what we've got here is a difference in style, not substance. So put down your velvet hammer Mr. Carpenter Man ("temperamentally conservative"...I see what you did there...soften me up then "thwack"..."fair-minded" ie; give the Guv a pass..."thwack thwack") I agree that, taken as whole, this budget is a mess with way too much reliance on vague promises of "things to come." Finally: we're due for a beer, aren't we?

Budget Thoughts

Marc Comtois

After I looked at how other states deal with sales tax, I began to think that it would be a clever move by Governor Chafee to lower the overall rate while expanding its application. It would both increase "revenue"--its a tax hike after all--but also would provide a lower number for the various state tax ranking entities. In other words, I think there's a good chance this move will end up making it look like Rhode Island is more tax friendly to the various tax ranking entities out there. I guess we'll see.

Meanwhile, various fees will increase and medical marijuana will be taxed. And there will apparently be one sector of the real estate market that will expand: toll booths. These measures are classic examples of "not raising taxes" but "raising revenue".

As for combined reporting, I recall that former Governor Carcieri and Gary Sasse looked into it the question and there was no cut-and-dried answer. As reported by John Kostrzewa at the time:

Gary S. Sasse, the panel’s chairman, pointed out that the state Division of Taxation recently studied the issue and found that if combined reporting were required, some businesses would pay more in tax, others less, but most would see no change.

When Carcieri’s tax-reform panel issued its final report yesterday, however, the panel declined to take a position on combined reporting.

That was because the panel could not reach a consensus. “Strong arguments were advanced both for adopting combined reporting or rejecting it,” the panel said in its report.

Now that that's cleared up....Overall, Chafee's business tax reform looks to be positive. Lowering rates is a good thing, even at the expense of a few tax credits. It's the sort of general tax improvement we advocate for around here. However, the belief that removing the movie tax credit will result in $1.6 million in additional revenue betrays a fundamental flaw in tax revenue projecting: You won't raise $1.6 million if no one films here because the tax credit is gone. So strike that one off of the books, folks.

The proposal to raise the pension contribution requirement for state employees to 11.75% caught my eye. Union leaders aren't happy about it, but this is a case of reality catching up with increasingly obsolete and untenable defined-benefit plans. To get what they expect--those defined benefits--current employees are going to have to contribute more at the front end. Are they paying for the sins of the past? Of course, so maybe they should take it up with the retirees. That's the system they've bargained for.

In the end, of course, none of the Governor's proposals really matters. It's up to the Democrats in the General Assembly to craft the budget, no matter what the Governor presents to them. So, ultimately, as tempting as it may be to blame Governor Chafee for whatever budget results, we can't forget that the Democrats in the General Assembly are the ones ultimately in charge.

March 8, 2011

To Liveblog or Not to Liveblog

Justin Katz

Well, I can find no evidence that there's actually a Tiverton School Committee meeting tonight (except, you know, for the fact that it's been on their calendar all year), so I guess I'll give Governor Chafee's budget address a try...

I'll offer running commentary (if any) in the comments section; feel free to join.

January 31, 2011

Balance Is Airing One Side

Justin Katz

Governor Lincoln Chafee may be the archetype of the presumptuous wealthy liberal. We've seen him tell representatives of his ideological opposition that he's already done all of the broad listening that he's going to do on particular issues. Now, we're seeing his method of consideration:

"He strongly believes Rhode Island needs a deep and healthy debate on the issue of charter schools because it represents to him a significant determinant in the future of our public school system," Trainor said. "To help spur that healthy debate and discussion, he is going to bring Diane Ravitch to Rhode Island between now and the beginning of spring."

Ravitch, an assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush, was once an outspoken supporter of charter schools, standardized testing and No Child Left Behind. Today, she has done a remarkable about-face, emerging as an outspoken critic of all of those things. "School reform today is like a freight train, and I'm out on the tracks saying, 'You're going the wrong way!'" she told The New York Times.

Anchor Rising readers may recall a couple of references to Ravitch last year. More relevant at this time, though, is the governor's apparent definition of "deep and healthy debate": He'll bring in a speaker with whom he agrees, thus sparking discussion among the rest of us, at which point, one suspects he'll close the door on his opposition with a shake of the head. "Sorry, we've already considered it all."

A similar window into Chafee's thought processes emerged at a recent Economic Development Corp. meeting:

Plus, he spoke of lessons learned from a book, "The Flight of the Creative Class," in which Richard Florida explains how the three Ts — technology, talent and tolerance — are what lead to economic growth.

This paragraph caught my eye because Florida's name had just been introduced to the AR comment section by the progressive Russ, who quotes from a Wikipedia article:

Florida's theory asserts that metropolitan regions with high concentrations of technology workers, artists, musicians, lesbians and gay men, and a group he describes as "high bohemians", exhibit a higher level of economic development. Florida refers to these groups collectively as the "creative class." He posits that the creative class fosters an open, dynamic, personal and professional urban environment. This environment, in turn, attracts more creative people, as well as businesses and capital. He suggests that attracting and retaining high-quality talent versus a singular focus on projects such as sports stadiums, iconic buildings, and shopping centers, would be a better primary use of a city's regeneration of resources for long-term prosperity. He has devised his own ranking systems that rate cities by a "Bohemian index," a "Gay index," a "diversity index" and similar criteria.

Whatever one's ideology, suspicion is in order when new indexes conform too closely with preconceptions. Presenting tolerance and diversity as core economic development principles, rather than social principles that might guide economic development, is a bit too convenient. I'll place Florida's writings on my list should I ever get out from under my workload, but on first blush, I'd suggest that economically vibrant locations, particularly high-population cities, tend to generate more opportunities for people who prioritize creativity. The ability to find work as a theater actor or to find galleries in which to hang one's work strikes me as more likely to attract creative types than policy on same-sex marriage and immigration.

But I'm sure the Chafee administration will encourage plenty of non-debate on the topic moving forward.

January 21, 2011

State Bankruptcy Watch

Carroll Andrew Morse

About a month-and-a-half ago, I sent the transition team of (at the time) Governor-Elect Lincoln Chafee a set of potential interview questions, including this one...

There has been speculation in national media that several states facing long-term fiscal problems -- a category that can be fairly said to include Rhode Island -- may ask for a Federal bailout, or that Federal laws will be changed to allow them to declare bankruptcy. Do you believe that either of these options are possibilities for Rhode Island in the near term?
The response from Mike Trainor, then a spokesman for the Governor-elect, now a spokesman for the Governor, was that...
We do not agree with the premise of these questions.
Today, this is the lede of a page A1 story appearing in the New York Times...
Policy makers are working behind the scenes to come up with a way to let states declare bankruptcy and get out from under crushing debts, including the pensions they have promised to retired public workers.

Unlike cities, the states are barred from seeking protection in federal bankruptcy court. Any effort to change that status would have to clear high constitutional hurdles because the states are considered sovereign.

It seems like the premise was sound. The question is now whether we should believe that the Chafee administration is not tracking developments related to state bankruptcy, or just not telling the public that they are.

January 14, 2011

What's Hiding Behind Chafee's Divisive Rhetoric?

Justin Katz

I'm beginning to worry about what the Chafee administration and its puppeteers might be trying to distract Rhode Islanders from with his assault on talk radio. As you've likely heard, yesterday RI Governor Lincoln Chafee called on advertisers to boycott talk radio. Apart from the petty activism indicated by his lambasting of an entire information medium (and a popular one, at that), the philosophical and direct assault on economic activity during the Great Recession and Rhode Island's continuing decline is bizarre, given the times. The more charitable explanation is that the governor has some sure-to-be-unpopular dealings going on in the background and wishes for everybody's eyes to be elsewhere.

In his partial defense (maybe), I will note that my impression from a more extended clip than Steve Klamkin provides in the above link was slightly different. It almost sounded as if, in response to some leading questions from the Pawtucket Times' Jim Baron, Chafee was bumbling his way to the point that private action should shut down divisive media, not government. Even if we make that stretch on the governor's behalf, however, his inarticulacy is reckless and damaging. As a press release from the RI Tea Party puts it:

The RI Tea Party finds the Governor's actions and words to be irresponsible and divisive. The Governor is the highest elected official in our state. By virtue of that Office, Governor Chafee carries a special responsibility to weigh the ramifications of his public messaging. He has failed to do so.

And the oddity extends beyond the governor's off-the-cuff remarks. Asked how Chafee's recent characterization of Sarah Palin as a "cocky wacko" fits into his call for tempered discourse, spokesman Michael Trainor says:

That remark was not made in a talk-radio format. We do not think it is an equivalent situationl

When Chafee's lips move, it's not what you say, but where you say it.

Less than a month into his term, the governor is way off message and is ensuring that political discord in the state will be greater during his reign than it was before... except perhaps to the extent that the public-sector unions quiet down. And that's where one suspects the origin of this initiative from the governor's office lies. No doubt, Linc is truly aghast at the tragedy in Arizona and, in his simplicity, has been led by national spinmeisters to blame talk radio and conservatives.

But then, perhaps he's also being led to weaken a medium that doesn't well serve his union backers. Talk radio has allowed reformers, notably Governor Carcieri and Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, stretches of airtime to discuss their policies at greater length than is possible in other media. The live, extended format has also not been kind to defenders of the inexcusable status quo.

January 11, 2011

A Governor for Bringing Everybody Together... Unless You Listen to Talk Radio

Justin Katz

There he goes again. Governor Lincoln Chafee — in the interest of bringing Rhode Islanders together and eliminating divisiveness from our political realm — has banned talk-radio appearances for himself and employees who work under him:

Chafee doesn't plan to spend his own time on talk radio, and he intends to ban state employees from spending their state work time talking on talk radio, which was Carcieri's favorite medium and an integral part of his communications operation.

Spokesman Michael Trainor said a directive will go out over the next day or so that reflects that new policy.

He said the policy emanates from a belief that talk radio is essentially "ratings-driven, for-profit programming," and "we don't think it is appropriate to use taxpayer resources" in the form of state employee work time to “support for-profit, ratings-driven programming.”

Because all of the other local media are charitable enterprises. Of course, today, Chafee was compelled to clarify that the ban does not apply to emergency situations. You see, folks who get their news primarily from talk radio need to know about emergencies. They don't need to know what their governor is up to, or what he believes.

I can't help but wonder if Chafee's handlers have just determined that he doesn't think quickly enough on his feet with a potentially unfriendly interviewer.

January 7, 2011

The Common Purpose of Agreement with the Aristocrat

Justin Katz

Sitting next to Kate Coyne-McCoy, who is regional director of the pro-abortion advocacy group Emily's List, for the WRNI Political Roundtable that airs today, I saw first-hand just how thrilled the far left is with the election of Governor Lincoln Chafee. (Listen around 6:40 a.m. and 7:40 a.m. on 102.7 FM/1290 AM and online later here.) Indeed, the only thing that thrilled Coyne-McCoy more was the success of now-General Treasurer Gina Raimondo. (Think on that those of you who thought you'd give her a chance.)

The conversation began on the topic of Chafee's inaugural call for "coming together," and the quotation that the Providence Journal prints here:

Laying out his vision for the next four years, he asked "all Rhode Islanders to join me in boldly reaffirming Roger Williams' vision of a 'civil state' ... a vibrant, diverse community that is free of political, cultural and ethnic division."

I made the elementary point that politics is the art of dealing with division, so Chafee's vision is built around a non sequitur. What a "common purpose" means in that context is for the opposition just to drop those topics on which Chafee knows himself to be decisively correct, whatever large numbers of his fellow Rhode Islanders may think. Civility becomes his willingness to walk away from an argument.

Unfortunately, his past behavior proves Chafee to be a guy who sees astonished reactions among his ideological opponents as evidence of his own fortitude, and the love of his agenda among mainstream media types is so strong that he'll get away with governing from fantasy land, at least for a while. This is a guy whose economic development plan appears to be to implement same-sex marriage, open the door to illegal immigrants (and push for amnesty, nationally), impose a tax increase on currently tax-free goods and services, insult prominent entrepreneurs, and threaten economic development officials with personal liability if their investments go wrong. He proclaims openness and "coming together" while declining to meet with the local leaders of issue-by-issue opposition. And he gets away with it.

Earlier this week, Monique noted Pawtucket Times columnist Jim Baron's suggestion that Chafee should throw his arm around Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, in part to "shut up" folks (like me) who see the unions behind Chafee's door. It will be interesting to see whether and how Baron reacts when Chafee does no such thing — when he marches right along with his political assumptions, contrary evidence be damned.

Will those who tingle at the elevation of Linc Chafee adjust their views when Rhode Island further deteriorates politically and economically, or will they find somebody else to blame? (Remembering that the General Assembly already gets a pass.)

January 6, 2011

Fear of the Unknown (But Suspected)

Justin Katz

This week, reading the paper has become a discouraging exercise. We've entered a world in which social issues like same-sex marriage and a welcome sign to illegal immigrants are declared, without challenge, to be economic development issues, with tax increases as the grease for growth — in which an all-white collection of left-wingers, unionists, and political insiders is asserted to be evidence of a new era of tolerance and the elimination of ideological division.

It'd probably be reasonable to speculate that the collective urge to flee Rhode Island has never been higher.

Something that then-Governor Carcieri told Ed Fitzpatrick back in the good-old-days of 2010 keeps coming to mind as the basis for my concern:

During an exit interview last week, I was curious to see if Carcieri is expecting Chafee to unravel or reverse many of the things he has pushed for and stood for during his eight years in office.

"I don't know," Carcieri replied. "Campaign rhetoric and slogans are different than what you've got to do to run the place." So, he said, "Let's see what happens. Am I concerned? Yes. But no one person is going to determine the direction of the state over the next four years. You've got a legislature that, I think, understands the issues."

Given Lincoln Chafee's public statements and the long history that made some of us willing to vote Sheldon Whitehouse into the Senate in order to keep him out, I have no confidence that Chafee will adjust to the realities of the office, as we tacitly expect all victorious politicians to do. One should imagine that newly elected officials have at least a moment, upon sitting at their desks on day one, of panic, followed by a gradual acclimation to the realities of authority. I have difficulty imagining Chafee in that state of mind.

Happy New Year, Commissioner

Justin Katz

We may look back at the fifth day of January as the first instance of Education Commissioner Deborah Gist's changed work environment, thanks to a press release by Sen. James Sheehan (D, Narragansett, North Kingstown):

"If good teachers are the most important element to education, the Department of Education shouldn't allow uncertified individuals to teach at Democracy Prep school in Cumberland, says Sen. James C. Sheehan.

"It's a contradiction to say that qualified teachers are critical to each child's education, but then allow exceptions at one school. The students at Democracy Prep are just as deserving of certified teachers as other students around the state. To allow a group of uncertified teachers to teach at that school is to put the education of the students there at risk," said Senator Sheehan, a Democrat who represents District 36 in North Kingstown and Narragansett.

"If we truly believe qualified teachers are important, the state is putting the students at Democracy Prep at an educational disadvantage by allowing them to be taught by uncertified teachers," he said, "and the Education Commissioner's actions are a contradiction of her own terms and stated educational goals."

Anybody who wonders why an elected official from Narragansett/North Kingstown would be especially concerned about a charter school in Cumberland needs only to check the Senator's bio page, which notes his occupation as a teacher in Warwick (specifically, high school history), which makes him a dues-paying member of the Warwick Teachers Union, a Rhode Island Federation of Teachers affiliate.

As we hear so frequently, the objective of charter schools is to act as "laboratories of excellence" (or any such catch phrase), operating under loosened rules compared with the public school system generally. Of course, that notion has been under constant assault, with labor restraints still existing, most of the time, and repeated questioning of whether offering the same education at a lower cost counts as a successful experiment. It would certainly be against Sheehan's professional and, presumably, union-mindset interests for an experiment of hiring teachers without regard to official certification to succeed. Rather, for it to succeed without permitting the obfuscations that typically meet such success among private schools.

Unfortunately for Gist, it appears unlikely that she'll have the same strong backing that she enjoyed from Governor Carcieri... and just wait until Governor Chafee turns his attention to the Board of Regents.

Immigration and Buzzards

Justin Katz

Monique and Matt talked of illegal immigration policy and a meaningful juxtaposition of headlines on the Matt Allen Show last night. Stream by clicking here, or download it.

We're still not to our goal of funding a full-time job, by the way, so please email or call (401-835-7156) me to pledge financial support — as subscriptions, donations, or advertising — for 2011 to help us create a full-time job within Anchor Rising.

January 5, 2011

UPDATED: Profiting from Ethics, the Chafee Way!

Marc Comtois

UPDATE: According to WPRO, Governor Chafee has decided to remove the Amazon link to his book from his official RI Governor's website. Awaiting news on when the Chafee Administration initiates and internal ethics investigation.

UPDATE II: Ooooooh. Of course!!!! BLAME THE INTERN!

ORIGINAL: Hat tip to WPRO's Dan Yorke (and one of his unnamed listeners).

We've been told, ad naseum, how ethical the Chafee governorship will be. Heck, his RI Governor website has a category for ethics, all on its own. There we're told:

We have an ethical crisis in Rhode Island. Each day we hear about corruption, cronyism and pay-to-play schemes that let insiders secure state business and provide no-bid jobs to friends and family. This is wrong and must stop. There is a direct connection between Rhode Island’s unacceptable economic condition and the disappointing reality that some of our public officials betray the public trust.

As your Governor, I will demand the highest standards for ethical behavior in my administration.

I will attack the ‘soft corruption’ that, over the long term, is as corrosive as illegal conduct. I will insist that every state employee ask themselves not only if a decision is legal, but if it is ethical, as well. I will tolerate nothing but the highest standard of behavior from every state employee.

During the transition period, I required every member of my staff to sign a “Transition Code of Ethics” to ensure that the formation of the new Governor’s office was guided solely by the best interest of the public. As Governor, I will issue a strong executive order on ethics to send a clear message that on my watch corruption, cronyism, and unethical behavior will not be tolerated in state government.

Sounds good.

By the way, you can buy Governor Chafee's book Against the Tide: How a Compliant Congress Empowered a Reckless President straight from the taxpayer funded, state website! Just click on the link and head on over to Amazon and it can be yours! But wait, there's more! Go on over to Mrs. Chafee's page and you'll find another link to Amazon where you can buy the book The American Way to Change by Shirley Sagawa, which features the new First Lady as one of '25 Models of Promise'.

And so it begins

Marc Comtois

The Chafeedom has begun. In his inaugural address, Governor Chafee clearly sought to link his new administration to the historical tenets espoused by Rhode Island's founder, Roger Williams.

I will not rest until we reclaim the promise that lay in the heart of our founder Roger Williams some 375 years ago....Today, I ask all Rhode Islanders to join me in boldly reaffirming Roger Williams’ vision of a “civil state” … a vibrant, diverse community that is free of political, cultural and ethnic division. For if we rekindle the vision that created our heritage, there is nothing this state and her people cannot achieve.
Here and throughout the speech, the Governor utilized Roger Williams in an all-too common way: he called upon Williams' "tolerance" for use in a way that he, Governor Chafee, chose to define.
[Williams] instantly made this the most democratic place in America, simply by welcoming other dissenters, and by creating a new form of government that valued tolerance and consensus over orthodoxy and compulsion....he set a lasting precedent for mutual respect… the very foundation of any civil society.

In his words, Rhode Island was like a ship of state, with many different types of passengers, free to worship and think as they pleased, but obligated to work to defend the ship from danger, and to follow a correct course to the right destination.

Who defines "tolerance and consensus" as opposed to "orthodoxy and compulsion"? And "mutual respect"? Explain to me how that squares with Governor Chafee's non-meetings with those he opposes? Finally, we are "free" but "obligated" to "follow a correct course to the right destination." A course to where and set by whom? The answer: one set by our aristocratic new Governor and his administration. Always remember, they know what is best for us and we'd better get used to it.
Last November, we showed the nation what a civil state can mean. Angel Tavares was elected mayor of Providence. David Cicilline was elected to Congress, and Jim Langevin was re-elected. Each of these men have been bold pioneers in their own way, and are testimony to the open minds and hearts of Rhode Islanders.

Thank you for this vote of confidence; and most importantly thank you for your vote to embrace tolerance and individual freedom.

Does that last mean that those who voted against the individuals named by Governor Chafee don't embrace tolerance and individual freedom? Isn't it the height of New England WASP condescension to boil the aforementioned candidates down to the demographic group they represent as opposed to the political positions they stand for? Yet, the Governor doesn't see it that way--and those mentioned may not either. But he's reduced their political careers to tokenism.
Our present condition has not developed overnight. It has been decades in the making and it is the shared legacy of Democrats and Republicans, business and labor, liberals and conservatives. Finger pointing and blame will do nothing to alleviate our situation.

In every segment of our society, we have tolerated something that Roger Williams did not – a refusal to do the work necessary to correct our course, and an acceptance of a fractious society that emphasizes division over common purpose.

Sorry, don't mean to finger-point, but 70 years of a Democratic, union-run state sure seems to significantly shift the the weight of the blame to one particular, shall we say, coalition. Further, here's a hint, Governor Chafee: the same group has benefited massively from "a refusal to do the work necessary", "a fractious society" and "emphasiz[ing] division over common purpose." There is no common purpose but that which benefits them or their tribe.

Governor Chafee also announced that he'd rescind the E-verify executive order (though he seems to misunderstand what it really is) and will push to pass gay-marriage legislation.

Rhode Island today must be as welcoming to all as Roger Williams intended it to be. Mark my words, these two actions will do more for economic growth in our state that any economic development loan.

Because good business is about treating people right, just as good government is.

Yes, I'm sure Roger Williams would have been a strong proponent of gay marriage and opposed to e-verify. Please. This is what I mean by Chafee using Roger Williams in an all-too common, anachronistic way: these concepts wouldn't have even entered Williams' 17th century mind. Our new Governor also implies that e-verify and gay marriage will help in building the RI economy more than, say, lower taxes:
...a civil state means that responsibility flows in both directions. As citizens, Rhode Islanders deserve honest, reliable government – but as users of services taxpayers must give government the resources to do its job well.
Define "well" again? I believe most tax-paying Rhode Islanders feel as if they've given plenty of their tax dollars for a government that hasn't been run well at all. Tell you what, Governor--give us a well-run government for the taxes we're paying now and then talk to us about paying more. Remember, you've still got 65% of the electorate who didn't buy what you're selling. So while you've outlined all sorts of concepts about what a "civil" government means, how about just giving us one that spends less, wiser.

I'm not holding my breath.

December 30, 2010

If You Love an Idea, Set It Free

Justin Katz

I've got the third offering in Ted Nesi's week-long series of letters of advice to Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee:

Cynical political observers might suggest that Chafee should take a lesson from Politics 101 and host short, pointless meetings with his issue-by-issue opposition in order to deflate their claims of exclusion. The governor-elect's problem goes deeper than that, though.

His doubters don't want evidence that he has the patience to listen to the hum of their voices; they want evidence that he has, indeed, considered their points. He will be a proven independent only when they emerge from their meetings feeling as if he could accurately paraphrase their positions, and they will "come together" only when they trust that he is intellectually capable of independence, even though surrounded by left-wingers, labor leaders, and political insiders.

December 29, 2010

Common Sense Locked Out

Justin Katz

With Governor Lincoln Chafee determined to ease the way for illegal immigrants in Rhode Island society, some legislators will surely increase their attempts to affect the relevant aspects of Rhode Island law through legislation, as Rep. Peter Palumbo (D, Cranston) has promised to do:

Palumbo also said he will introduce another bill, or package of bills, when Governor-elect Lincoln D. Chafee goes forward with his announced plan to repeal Governor Carcieri's executive order on illegal immigration. The bill, or bills, "will mimic the executive order to take its place legislatively," Palumbo said.

The stunning stretches of parliamentary procedure that similar legislation received last year (see here and here) suggest that the legislative route may not work. The prospects, this year, are made more dim by the fact that any legislation that passes will likely require enough support to override a gubernatorial veto.

Perhaps the makeup of the General Assembly changed just enough for a new dynamic on immigration, but I doubt it. All that's left is for residents to speak up and make it increasingly difficult for the state's political leaders to cater to their ideologies and favored special interests.

December 28, 2010

UPDATED: Trainor's Had That First Bitter Taste

Justin Katz

Ian Donnis reports that the voice of Chafee, Michael Trainor, may not be on board for the job post-inauguration:

Michael Trainor, who managed Lincoln Chafee's winning gubernatorial campaign after the departure of J.R. Pagliarini — and who had been expected to serve as communications director in the Chafee administration — might not be staying with the Chafee team.

"I'm undecided right now as to to whether I'm going to stay in the administration," Trainor says. He handled campaign press for Chafee before stepping into the campaign manager's role.

Trainor cites, as one factor requiring thought, the difference between his experience in private-sector PR and the available role in the public sector. Under all but rare and extreme cases, one imagines the private sector is less contentious; with politics involved at the core of the job, every word is a potential controversy.

One also suspects that the spokesman for Governor Chafee will be treading particularly treacherous turf, given Linc's history in the public eye.

UPDATE 12/28/10 7:30 p.m.

Ted Nesi ends the questioning:

... in a brief phone interview following a meeting at Chafee HQ late this afternoon, Trainor told me he will be serving as Chafee's communications director.

"I'm delighted and honored to be asked to serve in the Chafee administration and look forward to helping him deliver his message over the next four years," Trainor told me. He managed Chafee's campaign after J.R. Pagliarini resigned in October and has served as the transition's spokesman since the election.

December 22, 2010

Call in the Gov

Justin Katz

This'll be a useful test case for Governor-elect Chafee:

On the snowy steps of the high school, Frank Flynn, president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers, said he had called Chafee Tuesday morning and asked him to convene a group of teachers, school and district administrators, union leaders and state education officials to "move this school forward, because the students of Central Falls deserve nothing less."

The governor-elect indicated he would help, Flynn said, although no details have been settled yet.

The image comes to mind of Chafee in a vintage campy Batman costume running to a special phone in his office. It will be interesting to see how quickly the new governor implements the union-friendly changes that we're all expecting.

Step one, most likely, will be for him to step forward and bring everybody "to the table" in a one-sided equivalence that turns the notion of transforming Rhode Island's school system right around. The question is how quickly those intransigent bureaucrats and administrators who insist that reform must mean reform will be pushed out of their seats.

December 20, 2010

A Snicker from "the Differences"

Justin Katz

I had to chuckle at this gem, given Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee's all-but-established precedent of rebuffing requests for meetings from folks with whom he disagrees:

During the 45-minute long ceremony, Chafee will give his first address as governor, focusing, in part, on the idea of "setting aside differences and focusing on commonalities as we move the state forward," according to Chafee spokesman Michael Trainor.

One wonders whether "differences" is the Chafee administration's pet term for constituents who differ with the governor-elect on particular issues, as in: "Hide, here come the differences

December 16, 2010

Gathering in the Salon

Justin Katz

If you're a resident of Rhode Island who disagrees with a position and intended action of Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee, you'll find his public chambers blocked. But those who cut a powerful visage, and their sundry attendants, he'll welcome to his manse to foster amicability among our state aristocrats:

Chafee took another step toward amicable relations with the Assembly on Thursday evening, hosting a private cocktail reception for legislative leaders at his home in Warwick.

Chafee spokesman Michael Trainor said about 40 were in attendance, including senior staff for the assembly delegation, members of Chafee's growing Cabinet, and their spouses and wives.

"It was a kind of get acquainted and establish a personal relationship with persons in the Assembly," he said. "From our view, it's time to bring Rhode Island together rather than drive it apart. Unlike the prior administration, we want to collaborate with the Assembly as well as other major constituencies like business and labor."

Of course, cocktails are quite another thing from policy discussion. Those on the guest list may or may not have opportunity to open the gov-elect's mind, but at least they can bask in the glow of rulership.

December 13, 2010

The Not-So-Approachable Governor

Justin Katz

An email from Terry Gorman, executive director of Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement, inspired a new category title, on Anchor Rising, when he sent the following email:

Just received a call from Anita, a senior staff person on the Chafee transition team and she related to me that without hearing from the source the Governor elect fully understands RIILE'S position on Gov. Carcieri's Executive order and that the Governor elect had already conducted all the meetings he would with constituents on matters such as these at this time. RIILE put in three phone requests and many requests via Talk Radio for meetings with the Governor elect to explain RIILE'S side of the Illegal Immigration issue to enable Mr. Chafee to at least make an informed decision before rescinding the Executive Order. We thank them for considering our request for a meeting and appreciate the courtesy of a return call. However, RIILE feels that Mr.Chafee has been totally MISINFORMED by the Illegal Alien advocates and like thinking Union officials on his transition team. RIILE fails to see how a rational decision can be made by our State's highest ranking elected official without at least knowing both sides of any issue, especially one that so adversely affects the fragile economy our fine State. This reluctance to weigh both sides of an issue does not bode well for the next four years of governance in Rhode Island.

In like fashion to National Organization for Marriage Rhode Island Director Chris Plante, Mr. Gorman has found that our incoming governor has already granted constituents all of the hearings they're going to get, and he's not even in office, yet. One begins to wonder whether Mr. Chafee is disinclined to open his door to too many folks with whom he disagrees out of fear that they'll be able to determine whether he operates by means of strings or a hand up the back of his shirt.