Travis Rowley: Progressives Offer No Progress

Saturday, June 29, 2013


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Told you so.

Last December this writer penned a column that predicted, “Under the direction of the RI Democratic Party, the State of Rhode Island will never establish a leading local economy.”

This was at a time when Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed (D) was promising that “her chamber [would] focus in the 2013 session on economic development and [try] to turn around the state’s troubled economy.” Early in 2013 a report was to be released that would “[examine] 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” – a condition that Paiva-Weed described as “no longer acceptable.”

Particularly, Paiva Weed would be working alongside the RI 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.”

“An exercise in deception, political verbiage intended to convince Rhode Islanders that their trusty politicians are on top of things.” That’s how I described Paiva Weed’s promises. “Paiva Weed has no intention to fix the state’s economy,” I contended.

This week, General Assembly Democrats passed an annual budget – the document that divulges the state’s plans and priorities more than any other piece of legislation – that offered “few big shifts,” according to WPRI’s Ted Nesi.

House Minority Leader Brian Newberry (R) referred to the budget as “a very cautious document.” Newberry elaborated, “There's not much in here to hate…It's what's not in here that would be in here if I was running the budget process. There's nothing bold. There's nothing to move the state forward.”

“No bold vision was reflected in this budget,” added Lisa Blais of Ocean State Tea Party In Action.

Zero Reform

RIPEC – Paiva-Weed’s supposed partner – is known to have “examined the five [business ranking] reports” in which Rhode Island grades out abysmally, and “found that the state consistently performed poorly with regards to its tax and regulatory environment, cost of doing business, transportation infrastructure and economy.”

“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,” RIPEC has advised.

In the face of RIPEC’s analysis Democrats decided to craft a tax-and-spend plan that “[boosts] state spending 1% to $8.2 billion,” of which “more than half…is spent on human services and education” (read: welfare and wealth redistribution).

Democrats rejected Governor Chafee’s modest proposal to set the corporate tax rate at 7%, down from its nation-high 9% – and left in place a “projected gap of $170 million in next year’s budget.”

Blais commented, “Another year and still we face a massive structural deficit” – something Nesi described as “a long-term trend for state government.” “If you think this budget was tough, wait 'til next year,” admitted Rep. Jeremiah O’Grady (D-Lincoln).

Far from listening to RIPEC or any free market advocates, maintaining the status quo by designing another reckless budget seems to be Paiva Weed’s idea of “turn[ing] around the state’s troubled economy” and “improv[ing] the state’s reputation nationally.”

Unrelenting Malfeasance

Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of this year’s budget process was just how many elected Democrats – having just gone through a painful pension reform process and an overall wake-up call in regards to unfunded pension liabilities – revealed themselves as perfectly willing to begin defunding the state pension system all over again.

36 out of 69 House Democrats actually voted for the initial budget proposal offered by the General Assembly’s “top lawmakers” – a budget that “skips a $12.9 million payment into the state pension fund.”

Even the Democrats who objected to this portion of the budget seemed only to protest on relative grounds. Nesi explained, “Some legislators said they voted to keep the $12.9-million pension payment in the budget because they were uncomfortable removing money for retirees while paying $2.5 million to the 38 Studios bondholders.”

Democrats never learn.

And state workers actually have a reason to be thankful for the 38 Studios debacle.

Nothing telegraphs exactly who we are like our annual budget. With one loud voice, Democrats just proclaimed that Rhode Island is content with its current standing. Rhode Islanders can prepare themselves for more reports and studies that show their state still lagging far behind the others in terms of crucial economic measurements.


Travis Rowley ( is the author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of the Rhode Island Left.


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