August 12, 2009

Budget Leaves More Questions than Answers

From the Narragansett Times, Friday, 07 August 2009

Can anyone answer the call to straighten out the state’s budget? Does anyone really want to?


SOUTH KINGSTOWN- With big questions about money, stimulus dollars and school aid on everyone’s mind few people really want to discuss it.

The state’s General Fund was looking low last month and the possibility arose of having to dip into the state’s temporary disability insurance fund (TDI) to pay the bills. This did not happen, yet who knows what the future will bring as this practice has been done in the past.

Michael Rice, D-District 35, South Kingstown, referred the question of TDI money to David Caprio.

“This is a complex one to answer completely. There is a hope for a rebound in the economy so that state revenues get back toward normal as the federal stimulus money runs down. Otherwise more painful cuts to programs are likely. One thing is for sure; the legislature is taking up session in the fall to be able to discuss more of these complex issues,” Rice said of balancing the state budget when stimulus funds run out.

David Caprio, D-District 34 Narragansett and South Kingstown, is a member of the House Finance Committee. He said that money flows in and out of all of the accounts daily. He then said to speak with his brother, State Treasurer Frank Caprio.

The complete article is available at the Narragansett Times website.

Tanzi response submitted to the paper:

As someone who lobbies on behalf of Rhode Island families at the State House, and one who has paid particular attention to the budget this year, I must say I was deeply disappointed in the responses Representative Caprio gave to reporter Sarah Traver's important inquiry on the state budget and how we should go about weaning ourselves from the inevitable end of the federal stimulus money. Representative Caprio is a 10 year veteran of the State House budget process, and there is simply no excuse for his deferment of this question to his brother, the State Treasurer. As it appears he is looking for suggestions on the matter, may I recommend that he begin by eliminating the alternative flat tax, which benefitted fewer than 30 individuals in Representative Caprio's district (Narragansett, Wakefield, and Peace Dale), and will likely cost the state $35 million in 2009 and $53 million in 2010. The flat tax is nothing other than a giveaway to the wealthiest 800 or so Rhode Island residents, along with another 1,200 people who don't even call Rhode Island home. Representative Caprio voted to keep this tax policy in place this year, the same year that $55 million in aid to Rhode Island cities and towns was eliminated.

How much money did Narragansett lose in that agreement? $748,000, while South Kingstown lost $860,000. With that in mind, here are some additional questions for Representative Caprio: how many local programs will have to be cut or reduced, and how much will our property taxes be raised again to close the roughly 3.25% cut in aid to both municipal budgets, while he continues to work for the benefit of an elite handful of his constituents? Let's see whether he and his colleagues on the Finance Committee decide to address the issues at the state level (where they have many more options), or simply kick them back down for the towns and property tax payers to deal with yet again.

And one final question for the voters in Rhode Island: is this the change we hoped for in 2008?

Teresa Tanzi