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Travis Rowley: The Senate President’s Lack of Leadership

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Under the direction of the RI Democratic Party, the State of Rhode Island will never establish a leading local economy.

Having the second-highest unemployment rate in the country recently compelled Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed (D) to assure Rhode Islanders that “her chamber will focus in the 2013 session on economic development and [try] to turn around the state’s troubled economy.”

But does this prominent Democrat even know how to turn an economy around? Moreover, will the liberals she’s surrounded by even allow her to do what is necessary?
According to RI-NPR, Paiva Weed is aiming to release a report early next year that “examines the underlying factors that are considered by national agencies such as MSNBC, who have consistently ranked our state near the bottom in terms of economic climate. That is no longer acceptable.”

It would be nice to see Paiva Weed explain exactly when she considered the state’s fiscal climate to be “acceptable.” As the nation began to slip into recession, local commentators were matter-of-factly concurring that Rhode Island is always the first to enter into recessions, and always the last to recover from them.

That was more than several years ago. Is Paiva Weed just now beginning to take this analysis seriously?

Paiva Weed contends that she has been “looking at the factors considered” within the studies that continuously give poor rankings to Rhode Island’s business climate. She is also working with the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC) “to develop a plan to address the deficiencies in our state in order that we can improve the state’s reputation nationally.”

But RIPEC has already “examined the five [business ranking] reports and found that the state consistently performed poorly with regards to its tax and regulatory environment, cost of doing business, transportation infrastructure and economy.”

Taxes. Regulations. Cost of doing business (read: unions). Go figure, the promises of Democratic leadership.

Puzzling Rhetoric

RIPEC states, “While business location decisions are driven by a number of factors…taxation and regulatory environments are two areas in which states and municipalities are able to affect change within relatively short time frames.

So, if Paiva Weed were sincere in her partnership with RIPEC and her stated commitment to “improve the state’s reputation nationally,” wouldn’t she be openly advocating for drastic regulatory reform, the elimination of major taxes – Income, Sales, and/or Corporate – and the weakening of organized labor?

In other words, as in the case of State Treasurer Gina Raimondo (D), wouldn’t Paiva Weed be standing up to her party’s radical base of socialists and labor religionists?

Because she isn’t.

While RIPEC informs Paiva Weed that “making improvements in the state’s business climate ranking is possible,” and that “such approaches include amending the taxation system, improving regulatory conditions, fixing the transportation system, and developing new industries,” the Senate President seems to be blatantly discounting most of RIPEC’s recommendations.

Paiva Weed – while also appeasing progressives by suggesting that she will be forcing the State Senate to vote on gay marriage in 2013 – catered to her political base this week by referring to “the arts” as “a critical part of economic development” that she wishes to openly favor and subsidize with a “statewide tax exemption.”

Wonderful, more liberals not paying any taxes. 

Charged with governing one of the most overly-taxed states in the country, why isn’t the Senate President roaring into 2013 with a proposal to offer every Ocean State industry a “tax exemption?”
Paiva Weed, instead, is boasting about plans to have the government provide more “job training” to the unemployed, and to develop “an enhanced capacity” within the Deptartment of Labor and Training to “match employees with employers.”

Paiva Weed wants to turn the Rhode Island government into Jobs.com – which, ironically, will end up leading to Rhode Islanders who work for Jobs.com to lose their employment, and then find themselves at our revamped Department of Labor and Training.

Ms. Senate President, will you please just listen to RIPEC?

The Party Is the Problem

Eight of the ten states with the lowest unemployment rates right now are employing right-to-work policies – something unions despise, but employers appreciate. If the goal of the Senate President is truly to heal the state’s business climate and to “improve the state’s reputation nationally,” why isn’t Paiva Weed advancing the exciting possibility of becoming the only right-to-work state in the region?

Furthermore, why isn’t Paiva Weed championing the principle that as much private wealth as possible should remain in the private sector, and away from the machinery of government? Several years ago, the Ocean State Policy Research Institute discovered that “in 1929, Rhode Island’s private sector share of personal income was 92.6 percent. By 2008, the private sector share had plummeted to 69.2 percent – the 15th smallest in the country.” Since then, Senate President Paiva Weed has presided over a General Assembly that has only augmented the size of the state budget, the cost of Ocean State government, and the degree to which government elites plan our local economy from atop Smith Hill.

The fact of the matter is that the progressive community that empowers Paiva Weed is comprised of individuals who champion the status quo – and worse. They have not only been demanding a five percent state income tax hike on Rhode Island families who may earn over $250,000 per year, but have also been adamantly in favor of the Democrats’ efforts to have those same individuals have their federal income taxes raised as well. 

That’s right, the Rhode Island Left would have the taxes of Ocean State job creators raised by about ten percent overnight, all the while insisting that this would not result in the laying off of workers, an increase in prices, a decrease of wages and benefits, and, ultimately, the decision to relocate to another state. Rather, progressives contend that these tax hikes would have an overall positive effect on the Rhode Island economy.

These are the people who control the Senate President. This is the RI Democratic Party. RIPEC doesn’t stand a chance.

Paiva Weed’s sudden concern and determination to right Rhode Island’s economic ship – her pledge to produce a predictable “report” – is simply an exercise in deception, political verbiage intended to convince Rhode Islanders that their trusty politicians are on top of things. 

In reality, Paiva Weed has no intention to fix the state’s economy. There’s simply no political reason for her to do so. She would rather wait for a national recovery, in which Rhode Island will – if capable at that point – be the last state to exit this persistent economic downturn.

Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is the author of The Rhode Island Left: An Indictment of the Rhode Island Left.


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Why not focus on the real problem in RI, the special interest groups that bribe our state legislators. They are worse than than D.C.s by far. Contributions by special interests, not the "right or left", control our state. Have a real impact, out them, instead being distracted by yet another "pro wrestling" event staged by their minions.

Comment #1 by Charles Marsh on 2012 12 22

Charles, are you joking? I guess you missed the parts in this article where Rowley mentions the unions, and the dems' progressive base, the arts, etc???...???????? "Special interests" was exactly what this article was about.

Comment #2 by Jeremy Soninjer on 2012 12 22

Travis, a comment and a few other thoughts.

HAIL A RHODE ISLAND SUCCESS: One must finally say that the Rhode Island Democratic Party in collusion with the state’s unions has been a total success! Their success is the result of the plan they have steadily implemented and tweaked for the past 50+ years. Their success, however, means that most people, the average unconnected non-union people, truly have no future in a place that is not growing economically and in fact is shrinking daily.

STRATEGIC DESTRUCTION: The current economic calamity and dismal social climate in the state is the successful RESULT of the ongoing strategy and partnership of union labor organizations and their political branch, the Democratic Party, to steadily increase their control of the total percentage of gross revenues of the state’s annual gross domestic product and its accompanying tax revenues. They have done this by negotiating with willing confederates and accomplices in state/local governments and community school committees for higher wages, outrageous benefits, and unbelievable pensions for taxpayer-funded employees. The result of course is the non-stop undermining of the once-enviable solid foundation of the state’s productive economy with the inevitable exodus of capital, high-value inventors, business managers, and entrepreneurs from this sinking ship.

FIVE OTHER FORMAL ECONOMY IMBROGLIOS: Everything has changed and yet state planners, tax collectors, and businesses are not changing their policies and procedures to survive and succeed against the new economic realities. The five biggest are: 1) The dizzying non-stop advancement of user-friendly technology; 2) Instant communications, vast access to endless information, and open source everything; 3) Mobility and ability of knowledge and back office workers to operate from anywhere at lower cost and with no single place of residency; 4) Rise in taxes and government regulations that has led to an unprecedented expansion of the underground economy and off-the-books transactions; and 5) Online sale and delivery of everything and anything from digital content (books, magazines, 3-D car parts) to oil tankers and islands.

Ken Proudfoot

Comment #3 by KENNETH PROUDFOOT on 2012 12 22

We have spent the last eight years implementing the policies of a Republican governor, DINO legislatures, and ex-RIPEC director. Taxes were cut for the rich super-minority. Taxes were raised on the vast majority of citizens. Public pensions and payrolls were slashed.
We were in better shape before DINOs bought into your prescriptions.
Finally I am looking forward to ponying up the 100 million for a video game.

Comment #4 by Real Clear on 2012 12 22

Real Clear:

Your enthusiasm for opposing the status quo is great! I hope you are able to channel the energy of your anger and disillusionment into something productive that makes things better for you and your family in Rhode Island. Got video?

Comment #5 by KENNETH PROUDFOOT on 2012 12 22

Real Clear, let me see if I understand this correctly. You're saying that we have had a Democratically controlled legislature that has been implementing the policies of a Republican Governor for the past 8 years? You do understand that it's the General Assembly that pretty much dictates the path that the state takes, right?

Comment #6 by Patrick Boyd on 2012 12 22

Real Clear,

You do know, too, that the Democratically controlled General Assembly also can, and has, overridden Governors' vetoes?

They have been, and are, in control over the years.

If you want to place blame, there is no one else to lay it on but the GA, and more specifically, the GA leadership.

Comment #7 by Art West on 2012 12 30

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