Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A fine state indeed

I have been privileged to participate in a meeting convened to discuss the direction Rhode Island is going especially as it relates to spending. It was painfully clear from the data supplied by RIPEC that the current rate of spending, at all levels is, in a word, impossible.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that as long as outgo exceeds income we are on a collision course with disaster.

The most obvious solutions traditionally focus on how to cut the ever increasing spending. Some facts: (from Lookout TV show January 6, 2005

Third highest spending on total welfare ( averaging $50,000 per family)
Among highest percent of people on welfare.
Seventh highest in education spending
Bottom third in student performance nationally
From 1996 - 2004 40th in getting people off of welfare, among the worst in the country
By 2010 25% of all children will qualify for welfare
By 2010 20% of everyone will be eligible for state aid.
Reimbursement for medical providers are among the lowest:
Low md's pay
Low nurse pay
Low prescription payments

At our meeting it came as no surprise that the most frequently mentioned solutions included:

Cut spending
Force more efficiency
Tax limits to force the above and then
Cut spending some more.

These are indeed necessary. But in the longer view we need to decide on the long range goals.

So I ask the following: Is it enough if we:

Lower cost for education
Lower costs for municipal spending, fire, police, roads etc.
Increase productivity, increase output per employee.
Cut spending on entitlement programs, AFDC, Medicaid, RITE Aid etc.
Force cuts by tax limits?

Is it enough that we have lower spending on education and all the rest? I believe it will be a Pyrrhic victory unless we also:

Make this the best state it can be, not just the least expensive
Have the best educated people. I'd be proud to spend the most on education IF we also had the best students in the country.
Have excellent infrastructure, roads, bridges, and how about putting up enough street signs to help visitors navigate? etc.
Reduce not only spending but dependence on welfare, with compassion.
Have a legislature that will not be deterred from doing the people's business by getting "Abramoffed".

To succeed, we must include in the effort, the recipients of our tax dollars as well as the producers of those tax dollars so that, working together, we can send this message to the legislature - "Listen to the most important 'special interest group' of all, the people of Rhode Island"

Business owners
Town managers
Taxpayer groups
League of Cities and Towns
Citizen advocates.

United we can thrive, divided we shall fail.

But maybe it's just me.

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