Arthur Schaper: Chafee’s Budget – A Pie in the Sky Dream

Friday, January 24, 2014


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As of now, the Rhode Island state budget FY2015 should be renamed “RI-FU 2015 to eternity," believes Arthur Schaper.

Governor Chafee released his proposed budget for FY 2015 in mid-January 2014. With all the planning, how come the state still cannot make ends meet? With lots of colorful rainbow pie charts (another advertisement for marriage equality?) staring at us, Chafee’s budget plans are all pie-in-the-sky, to say the least. Usually, when governors offer their projections about state funding, they refer to what monies they anticipate receiving from revenue streams within the state.

Because the devil is often in the details, someone better summon a priest (Bishop Tobin, holy water please!) and cast out the legion of mistakes, immoral displacements, and unjust appropriations in Chafee’s bloviated budget proposals.

Chafee's Budget Proposal

So, what’s the plan for 2015, Governor Chafee?

Let’s start with the sum set for spending: $8.5-billion budget, with corporate tax cuts. Sounds good, so far. Tax breaks for companies can be a good thing, if you want companies to make money, but not so much if they paid your campaign coffers to make the case. Chafee also wants to freeze state college tuition and then shore up and polish up construction projects all over Rhode Island, including hundreds of dilapidated bridges.

About college tuition in Rhode Island. Are these private institutions even worth the magnified, overblown investment? Looking over tuition costs for the University of Rhode Island (instate: ​$10,878.00), Providence College (​$42,385.00), and Brown University (undergrad, room and board: $60,460), no wonder Chafee was considering a tuition freeze, at least for the state college. As for private institutions, does a college education remain a worthy investment, especially after all the debt accumulated upon graduation, compounded by a meager job market?

Then there are the many bridges which need refurbishing and rebuilding. Hundreds of them. Bridges over a Troubled Statehouse: a new song from Governor Chafee and shock-jock DePetro? People will have trouble crossing Sakonnet River Bridge, since the toll will take a heavier toll on Rhode Islanders come April First, unless the foolish General Assembly intervenes with an extension of the current rates. Providence legislators will revisit an assault weapons ban and drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants, but when it comes to the residents paying their way, the powers that be make sure that they pay!

Who's going to pay for this?

The first question to ask, of course: who is paying for this? More on that later (if ever).

While Speaker Fox had christened 2013 the year of Economic Development, Chafee declared that he wanted to make Rhode Island a “better place to raise a family, find good jobs and grow the business community.”

“The year of Making RI Better”?

Let’s look at other details of his budget. . .

Instead of removing loopholes for key companies to balance the cuts to the corporate tax, Chafee is hoping that Congress will pass legislation to allow states to collect taxes from Internet sales. This is one clear example of failed leadership. Like Governor Brown in California, Chafee does not want to be directly responsible or raising anyone’s taxes, especially on Internet sales. Yes indeed, Rhode Island (hopefully) will rake in more tax revenue, and someone else will press “send”.

But wait, all of that revenue depends on whether the federal government passes the tax. Democrats and Republicans are barely talking to each other (all those shutdowns and debt-ceiling default scares have scarred any semblance of serious bipartisanship), and most of them are seeking reelection this year, too. Does anyone really believe that Congress will approve tax increases, especially the Democrats, who have IRS-gate, Benghazi-gate, and Obama (along with Obamacare) dragging down their national ticket?

The other wobbly indicator which may help or hurt Chafee’s budget: whether the pension reforms of 2011 stay in place. Unions are still up in arms over the deal, and armed with lawyers to undo the reforms.

While Chafee included tax credits for refurbishing old mills and antiquated buildings, the governor also welcomed a host of hotel taxes as well as raising the annual car license fee. And then there’s the $10 million that the statehouse will shell out to creditors over 38 Studios. Apparently, according to the governor, the Ocean State has a “moral obligation” to start paying off the loan, or else bond markets will get jittery, and no one will want to do business in Rhode Island. This is news?

Moving in the right direction?

Of course, with all of this storm and drama resurging in the Ocean Sate, Chafee’s singular statement stands out:

“By nearly every measure, Rhode Island is steadily moving forward.”

Chafee claims that the state is setting sail. Such a remark should be assailed, and mercilessly. More people are leaving than moving into Rhode Island, which now has the highest unemployment rate in the country (but tied with Nevada. Cold comfort). Taxpayers are paying for pensions which were unsustainable, and shelling for a bad loan now going worse than when first offered – how is this momentum, how is this moving forward, Guv Chafee?

The governor should have been blunt about Rhode Island’s incomes/outcomes, then abandoned his progressive convictions, issue necessary changes to the budget, then make some hard decisions, since he had nothing to lose.

As of now, the Rhode Island state budget FY2015 should be renamed “RI-FU 2015 to eternity”.


Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance. Follow him on Twitter @ArthurCSchaper, reach him at [email protected], and read more at Schaper's Corner and As He Is, So Are We Ministries.


Related Slideshow: Is Clay Pell the Next Lincoln Chafee?

Privileged bloodlines, prestigious prep schools, lofty political ambitions.  Is Clay Pell the next Lincoln Chafee?  

Below is a look at the similarities -- and differences -- between Governor Lincoln Chafee  and likely gubernatorial aspirant Clay Pell.  

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Family Legacy - Chafee

Lincoln Chafee is the son of John Chafee, the former Governor of Rhode Island, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of the Navy, who was a decorated WWII and Korean War Veteran, and posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  

Named in his honor include the USS Chafee (DDG-90), the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor and the John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge.

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Family Legacy - Pell

Grandfather Claiborne Pell was Rhode Island's longest serving Senator, having served six terms from 1961 to 1997, whose legacy includes the Pell Grant, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  

A decorated coast guard lieutenant in WWII and foreign service officer, Pell's Rhode Island legacy includes the Newport Bridge being renamed the Claiborne Pell Bridge, as well as the Pell Center of International Relations and Public Policy established at Salve Regina University.

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Money - Chafee

Both Chafees and Senator Pell had to disclose as members of the U.S. Senate personal financial information -- and both a considerable net worth.  

The U.S. Senate is known as the U.S. Millionaires Club -- in 2005, while Chafee was still in the Senate, Open Secrets pegged Chafee's wealth at between $40 and $63 million dollars.  

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Money - Pell

In a Time piece entitled "The New Limousine Liberals", the magazine pegged grandfather Pell's net worth at $12.7 million -- in 1992.  

The website Celebrity Net Worth puts wife Michelle Kwan's personal wealth at $8 million. 

While Pell's first campaign finance report has yet to be made public, records show Pell gave Democratic challenger Gina Raimondo $250 during her bid for General Treasurer in 2010.  

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Education - Chafee

Chafee was educated public schools in Warwick, and attended private schools Providence Country Day, and Phillips Academy before graduating from Brown University.  

Chafee then attended the Montana State University in the horseshoeing school.

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Education - Pell

Pell attended the private boarding Thacher School in California for high school, graduating in 2000.  The school's noted equestrian and outdoor programs require that students ride and care for a horse during their first year.  Current tuition is over $50,000
Pell, a JAG who graduated first in his class from Coast Guard Direct Commission Officer School, has a JD from Georgetown University and graduated from Harvard University with high honors in Social Studies and a Citation in Modern Standard Arabic. 
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Early Career -- Chafee

Chafee served as a delegate to the Rhode Island Constitutional Convention in 1985, and was elected to the Warwick City Council the following year.  

He was Warwick's mayor in 1992 until 1999, when he was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 1999 when his father passed away while in office.

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Early Career -- Pell

Named to the 2011-2012 class of White House Fellows, Pell served as Director for Strategic Planning on the National Security Staff prior to his appointment by President Obama as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International and Foreign Language Education last April.

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Wife - Chafee

Chafee's wife, Stephanie Danforth Chafee, holds a B.S. in Nursing from Boston University, an MBA from the University of Connecticut, and an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Rhode Island, helped found the Rhode Island Free Clinic in South Providence, and was featured as one of the ‘25 Models of Promise’ in Shirley Sagawa’s The American Way to Change. 
Mrs. Chafee was a co-founder of Women Ending Hunger and has served on advisory boards for Miriam Hospital, Rhode Island Hospital, the Rhode Island Zoological Society and the Rhode Island Foundation.  Last April, she was recognized as one of the YWCA Rhode Island's Women of Achievement.
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Wife - Pell

A decorated Olympic figure skater and world champion, Michelle Kwan went on to pursue a career in public service, serving as an American Public Diplomacy Envoy as well as on the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports -- and was recently inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame.


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