Tuesday, January 17, 2006

It's an ill wind that blows no one any good.

When I was much younger, that saying never made any sense to me. I have subsequently learned that it means that even what we at first might think of as a tragedy might have some beneficial outcome or result, that a purely "ILL" wind is pretty rare indeed.

Disasters, even of the scope of Katrina and 9/11, have brought people together, people who might never have been able to work together before.

In Rhode Island we face a looming fiscal crisis. The numbers don't lie and the handwriting is clearly on the wall for anyone to read. Taxpayers are simply unable to sustain the yearly increases in tax burdens being placed upon them. It's no secret. People are fleeing the state and the most vulnerable are often forced to sell their homes. Even a cursory examination of the data available at the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council's website will quickly confirm it. RIPEC.

So we find ourselves struggling with ways to lower taxes, to make living here more affordable. Who would deny that this is a worthy goal? And yet we get resistance from unions, advocates and entitlement program administrators, in short, anyone who depends on our tax dollars, who worry that important programs and benefits might be cut. These are legitimate concerns and need to be addressed as well.

But there reaches a point when the goose runs out of golden eggs. I hope that it won't take a tragedy to get all of us working together to find ways to make our tax dollars go farther and do more than they do currently. We can have the quality of life we want and pay for it too but we must step back and question "business as usual".

For example:

Do we actually need 39 different fire departments? 39 different school administrations? 39 different health insurance contracts? Or is it that we've gotten used to them, that we just WANT them because they're familiar?

Is this the best way to spend taxpayers' money? Might there be a better way?

We have a long way to go and the work will be hard, but boy, it will be well worth it.

But maybe it's just me.

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