Gencarella: It’s Time to Brew Our Own Coffee and Cut Out the Coolattas

Thursday, October 15, 2015


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Speaker Nick Mattiello

Good Ideas Are Often Recycled For The Very Reason That They Are Good Ideas.

“A recycled proposal, a flawed plan." That was Speaker Mattiello’s flippant response to the RI Republican Caucus Policy Group plan that would fund bridge repairs on a pay-as-you-go-basis.  “Smoke and Mirrors."  That was the Governor’s response to the plan.  After all, how many times can you listen to those fiscal conservatives in the General Assembly say that state government must prioritize spending rather than continually add more fees, taxes and debt in order to fund government services?

I know in my house, telling my kids that they need to live within their means and prioritize their spending often times falls on deaf ears. That is until I provide an actual accounting of their spending and show them how they can afford to pay that $1,000 car repair bill when it will ultimately come due. Instead of spending $3 a day for a coffee Coolatta ($1,095 for the year), make your own coffee for less than $.30 a day ($110 for the year).  And certainly, do not make the choice to take out a 30 year loan for your car repair (with a repayment of nearly $2,000) rather than cutting out the Coolattas.

Prioritize: verb - determine the order for dealing with a series of items or tasks according to their relative importance.

That is all that Representative Morgan and her colleagues are proposing. RI’s spending is full of “nice-to-haves”. If the money were there, spending on these items may not be an issue. But in a state that is hemorrhaging jobs and middle class families, we must face up to the fact that we can’t afford what we are spending. And more taxing is not the answer. So mandating that a certain percentage of a budget be spent on the arts is more of a “nice-to-have” than a spending priority.

Next, imagine a government in which our representatives tax us for a service and then actually use those funds for that service. That is what this group proposes. Remember the 9-1-1 emergency surcharge the media exposed?  It was found that RI government is charging you a fee, purportedly for 9-1-1 services, yet a sizable chunk of that goes to the General Fund (and still goes there today).  When this was made public, people were outraged.  (By the way, Representative Lancia introduced legislation last session that would have changed that.  It went nowhere). Well, the Policy Group has identified that DMV fees that were implemented or increased, purportedly to fund road and bridge repair, are also going to the General Fund.  This group would like that money to be used for its intended purpose.  Sound like a “flawed” plan?

And how about those “Cadillac” healthcare plans that Obama said needed to be penalized with an additional tax?  Apparently there are a number of these public employee “Cadillac” plans that, not only are you paying for, but you are paying the penalty on as well. The Policy Group is simply saying that it’s bad enough that RI public workers are receiving better benefits than the citizens paying for them, but taxpayers certainly should not be paying a penalty tax on top of that. This hardly seems like a recycled idea.

Then there is the question of corporate welfare. Should your tax dollars really be used to pay 75% of the salaries in the filming industry?  Does that really benefit anyone other than that small industry? Is the small group in the film industry a priority or is repair of our bridges a priority?

As Governor Raimondo Likes to Say, It’s About Math, Not Politics.

In the end, the Policy Group plan includes providing more money for the actual work on roads and bridges than the Governor’s Tolling plan does - $875 million vs. $620 million.  

Low and behold, the Policy Group plan actually costs less than the Governor’s plan - $900 million vs. $1.3 billion and, to top it off, it’s paid in 10 years vs. 30 years. Hmmm, sounds like a no-brainer.  

We say take it one step further.  If the General Assembly could only be so bold as to pass legislation to reduce fraud, waste and abuse in our Medicaid and welfare systems, and if the Governor could truly fix the DMV, the DOT and DCYF once and for all, maybe there would be plenty left over to offset that $150 million budget deficit that both the Speaker and the Governor ignored in the last budget.  

The Time is Now

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You need to tell your state representatives, Speaker Mattiello and Governor Raimondo that it is time to get out the old percolator and brew our own coffee!

Tell Speaker Mattiello and Governor Raimondo “No Tolls” in Rhode Island – prioritize better and find the money in our state budget to fix our crumbling infrastructure. Spend our tax dollars on that which they were originally intended.


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