Arthur Schaper: Chafee’s Budget – A Pie in the Sky Dream
Friday, January 24, 2014
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Money - Pell
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.
Education - Pell
Early Career -- Chafee
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.
Wife - Chafee
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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