Lisa Blais: Will RI Move Forward?
Thursday, February 06, 2014
Platitudes or Dialogue?
In this election season, taxpayers are hearing platitudes about how we will pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and correct course. It’s the year of the woman, it’s the year of diversity, it’s the year of who is the better progressive democrat to “move the state forward” or who the real republican gubernatorial candidate is; millions of dollars are being spent for the governor’s seat while very real people in RI worry about how they will keep up with their costs of living. It’s easy to empathize with anyone who struggles to pay bills without enough income to cover those bills but it is quite another thing to pontificate within a well funded bubble about matters of policy that many of these politicians don’t seem to fully understand or have not fully vetted enough to understand the complexity or ramifications of those sound bites. Good public policy for the good of everyone shouldn’t be developed in a bubble. If you listen closely, you may find contradictions on some of their political positions that decimate their promises to improve any number of areas of interest. If you listen closely, you may be eager to ask policy-based questions that facilitate a much deeper dialogue.
We don’t have time for platitudes, we need concrete action plans. We don’t need superficial plans that pander to potential voting blocs but a comprehensive plan that meets the needs of all Rhode Islanders. We need leaders who have a deep understanding of all of the important areas that define the quality and value of life in Rhode Island.
Been There, Done That.
In the meantime the General Assembly has begun hearing bills that have been heard before. To some extent, the Finance Committee deserves a bit of applause for listening to the same bills and the same arguments, pro or con, year over year. But that does not get us anywhere.
We wrangle with how to correct course. But until a holistic approach with many of the proposed pieces of legislation is taken and until legislators work together to coordinate those bills that are worth everyone’s attention then it looks like another year of piecemeal starts and stops and the beat will go on.
So what are the bills worth everyone’s attention that will correct course in RI? Some of them are a combination of tax reforms made up of the estate, income and sales tax, the minimum corporate and the (C) corporate tax. Past General Assembly sessions have witnessed discourse over the potential revenue losses if all of these sources of current tax revenue were lowered but rarely have we seen a comprehensive approach to implement these reforms. For instance, we have yet to see a presentation packaging and coordinating these tax reforms with reductions to legislative spending, increases to off-set costs of taxpayer subsidized health, vision and dental benefits, a vetting of cost savings that we might actually realize if waste and abuse of social service costs were mitigated coupled with a check and balance on those contract costs that are being negotiated while the state’s Finance Committee grapples with the governor’s budget. Perhaps if we were able to coordinate all of these moving pieces, including many not mentioned here, into one package it would provide the answer to how we off-set those potential revenue losses in exchange for comprehensive tax reform that will retain individuals and businesses and attract new business to RI.
Fast Track an Improved Political Image.
Tax reform is certainly not the silver bullet but it is one piece of the puzzle that will improve our state’s economy. We should make this the year of improving our political image – one that at least suggests that our state government works for everyone and not just some. Repealing the master lever and reinstating solid ethics reform is a good beginning. These are solid changes that have been on the backburner for many, many years without any movement. Considering that the recent bill on 38Studios fast-tracked through the General Assembly we have reason to know that ethics and master lever reform could follow that same track.
Quality education for all of our kids is important to everyone. We need a much deeper vetting of what we are doing and what we would like to do for our kids. With so much good work being done by many teachers in our public schools, public charters, independents and home-school instructors, it is disheartening to witness the dialogue that brings very dated issues back to the future, so to speak. When will we get to the root cause of why we continue to waste students’ educational years while the legislature has a hopper full of bills that appear to be adult focused as opposed to student focused? When will the gubernatorial candidates stop picking at pieces of what the road map is to a great educational system? Heavy lifting is in order if we are ever going to “move forward” to the point where RI can genuinely boast that we offer the best and most innovative educational opportunities and choices for every child in RI.
Related Slideshow: The Top 30 Highest Paid State Contractors in RI
Below is the list of the top 30 highest paid private contractors for the state of Rhode Island, ranked from least to greatest. Each contractor is identified along with a summary of services that were provided and the department or state agency that hired them. Because contractors will often be hired to offer multiple services or work on numerous projects in a given year, only a basic summary of their work is provided. In cases where a contractor worked for several departments, only a representative sample is listed. The ranking of top contractors excludes payments to other government entities, like cities and towns, as well as quasi-public agencies like the Economic Development Corporation.
Deloitte Consulting, LLP
Total Amount Paid: $9,792,452.99
Agencies: Department of Administration, Office of Health and Human Services, and Department of Business Regulation
Services Provided: Building of a new information technology platform for state health agencies, related to the health benefits exchange
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