The New York Times’ left-leaning editorial page will have a strong Rhode Island flavor on Wednesday.
One editorial – “A Brave Stand in Rhode Island” – is explicitly about events here, offering support for Jessica Ahlquist in her fight to get rid of Cranston West’s prayer banner. ”The kindness, friendship and other values the prayer champions are universal, but a statement of religious belief has no place in a public high school auditorium,” The Times declares.
The second editorial – “Turning the ‘Buffett Rule’ into Law”- is national in scope but centers on the effort by Rhode Island’s U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse to require millionaires to pay at least 30% of their income in taxes, which it calls “only the beginning” of efforts to change federal rates.
“Republicans are certain to filibuster Mr. Whitehouse’s bill in the Senate or try to ignore it in the House,” the paper says. “But explaining a tax code that allows the wealthiest to escape their responsibility is getting much harder to do.”
In 2011, Governor Chafee proposed a state budget that was big and bold. It flopped with lawmakers.
Lesson learned: Chafee’s 2012-13 budget is less big and bold, more modest and managerial. Beyond targeted spending on his top priorities – notably more than $38 million for education – his vision is a relatively austere $7.9 billion tax-and-spending plan for a state that’s spent five long years in the economic doldrums.
Last year’s budget debate left Chafee looking ineffective and out of touch with the mood on and off Smith Hill. This is a humbler document after a year atop state government. The governor still thinks broadening and lowering the sales tax is a good idea, for example. But lawmakers aren’t interested, and he left it out. There’s no combined reporting or other major shift in business taxation.
The initial focus will likely be on Chafee’s $93 million in tax and fee increases. While far less sweeping than his doomed sales tax overhaul, there’s still plenty for critics to seize on: a two-cent rise in the meals tax to pay for the education increase will draw howls, as will the expansion of the tax base to cover pricey clothes, limo rides, small cigars, bed-and-breakfasts and vacation homes.
Weather pattern continues stormy across the southern states and Plains. Here’s where things get tricky…especially when forecasting beyond 3-4 days. There are essentially two storm tracks or jet streams…one guiding significant storms, as mentioned, across the deep south…the other jet stream is across the northern United States and Canada. In order to get these southern storms to move into New England both jets streams need to link up (like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle fitting together). When this “link up” occurs, it increases our chances of storms approaching.
The challenge as a forecaster is that sometimes the computer models we use have a hard time resolving whether the storm tracks will link up…often not seeing it until 24-36 hours prior to a storm threat…bottom line..what looks like a storm going out to sea on a forecast 5 days out…ends up coming closer in the end. So the lesson in all this is that the pattern we are in now makes the forecast 4-7 days out a challenge sometimes.
Meanwhile the warmer air is here and it will stick around thru Wednesday…should turn colder over the weekeend
Happy Budget Day to you, readers. Governor Chafee is set to deliver his State of the State speech and unveil his 2012-13 budget proposal before lawmakers at 7 p.m. at the State House.
We’ll broadcast his remarks live on WPRI 12 and at this page on WPRI.com. As soon as the governor starts, I’ll post my article on the budget’s contents and an analysis of what’s inside it here on the blog. See you then.
If U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse added trillions of dollars to the national debt, as PolitiFact declared “half-true” on Tuesday, it’s not because he spent the money on office supplies.
Whitehouse returned $1.45 million in unspent office funds to American taxpayers in fiscal years 2009 and 2010, which was nearly 24% of the $6.16 million he was authorized to spend, according to a new Politico analysis of Senate office budgets.
Whitehouse was No. 4 on Politico’s list of the most frugal U.S. senators, with only Richard Shelby of Alabama, Daniel Akaka of Hawaii and Jim Risch of Idaho proving thriftier than the first-term Rhode Island Democrat. Jack Reed was No. 22 on Politico’s list for giving back $807,962, or 13.11% of his $6.16 million in office funds.
“The office budget stats don’t necessarily play to stereotypes about fiscal conservatives versus Big Government liberals,” Politico’s Scott Wong noted, though he found evidence of “a philosophical divide in Congress about how much money lawmakers need to effectively represent their states and constituents.”
Both Reed and Whitehouse were far more frugal than their Massachusetts counterpart, John Kerry – he gave back $121,268, or just 1.85% of the $6.57 million he was authorized to spend. Massachusetts’ other senator, Scott Brown, wasn’t included in the analysis because he didn’t join the Senate until January 2010.
As a host city, Indianapolis commissioned people from all across the country to make scarves for volunteers to wear around the city. So far they have received more than 13,000 handmade scarves from 46 states including Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Eyewitness news will bring you the story beginning Wednesday morning at 6 a.m.
Wow! Superbowl Host Committee Update: To date more then 118000 people have taken part in the NFL experience….265000 have been thru Superbowl Village and we ain’t seen nothing yet!! Await until tomorrow when thousands of out of state visitors arrive here!!
Danielle got to hold and even smell Tom Brady’s game worn jersey from 10/16/11 at Gillette in their 20-16 win over the Dallas Cowboys. The never washed jersey is being auction off by he NFL. The money raised is going to various NFL charities. To bid and view the auction click here
Welcome to Radio Row!!! We are the only local Tv station live outside this hub of media activity every morning! Starting tomorrow the public can watch all of the action in this room from a viewing gallery! So cool! Expect celebs and past and present football stars to be making appearances here this week!!! Stay tuned!
Our second day live at the JW Marriott, Super Bowl XLVI Media headquarters, and this time (and for the rest of the week) we are live inside on “radio row” where all the radio stations and sports shows from around the nation are broadcasting coverage of the Super Rematch between the Patriots and Giants.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The shortfall in Providence’s city pension fund climbed to nearly $901 million last year, a one-year jump of $72 million, after the Taveras administration ordered its actuary to lower its investment earnings forecast.
Providence had $423 million in assets saved to cover $1.32 billion in promised pension benefits as of June 30, 2011, according to a new report from city actuary Buck Consultants. The city pension system’s funded ratio fell from 34% to 32% compared with a year earlier.
The increase in the city’s unfunded pension liability would have been a more modest $37.5 million if the administration and Buck hadn’t changed some of the assumptions driving the data, including forecasts of mortality levels, interest rates, scalary scales and longevity assumptions.
The most notable change is a reduction in the average annual rate of return Providence expects its pension fund to earn over the long term, to 8.25%. The capital had been one of only three cities in Rhode Island using an 8.5% rate of return for its pension fund, the highest level in the state. A higher rate means a lower liability on paper.
What a Monday here in Indy!!! An early start with live shots til 930am and then we hit the ground running. This photo is from a news conference with the NFL and Superbowl Host Committee. It is amazing to think this week was really FOUR years in the making. Now the stage is set….and everyone is pumped and prepared! Stay tuned to Eyewitness News starting at 6am we will bring you the story of two Rhode Islanders who now call Indy home. Verrrrrry interesting trying to be a New England fan living here! See you in the a.m.
Warmer air will move in next few days, even though its cold right now…the process of this warmer air initially trying to work in, is creating a band of light snow right now thru Upstate New York…most of this will pass thru central Massachusetts and northern New England overnight. However, our northern suburbs will get grazed with very light snow showers and flurries after 1AM. There is still the outside chance that Kent and Providence counties may see a thin dusty coating of snow by daybreak.
By Tuesday afternoon, some hazy sun and a rapid warm up, well into the 40s…even warmer by Wednesday.
Moreover, the Court notes that $6 million in lost savings – although hardly a paltry sum – is less than 1% of the City’s approximate $1.5 billion in liabilities for non-pension post-retirement employment benefits. Immediate receipt of these alleged savings would not save the City from financial ruin.
That’s an apples-to-oranges comparison. The $6 million is how much the city projects it will save from moving retirees to Medicare in one fiscal year. The $1.5 billion is how much the city projects it owes them in health benefits forever.
Think about it: by Taft-Carter’s logic, the pension law passed in November had a negligible impact, because the $128 million it saves in the 2012-13 state budget is only about 1.8% of the old $7.3 billion unfunded pension liability. But the number people care about is the drop in the unfunded liability to $4.3 billion, a 41% reduction.
A more apt comparison would be how important the $6 million is in balancing Providence’s 2011-12 budget. If we take the original projected deficit for Providence – $110 million – the Medicare savings closes more than 5% of the shortfall. Or if we take the remaining deficit for this year – about $30 million – it’s equal to 20% of the shortfall.
If, on the other hand, Taft-Carter wants a number that’s comparable to the $1.5 billion unfunded retiree health liability, she would need an estimate of how much the move to Medicare shaves off that figure. It’s not clear to me if that figure is available, but it would be substantially more than $6 million.
An earlier version incorrectly described the reduction in the pension liability as 59% rather than 41%.
What a day in Indianapolis! Live shots started bright and early outside of the J W Harriot and then it was time to do some exploring. They don’t call it the, circle city for nothing! Lol! This photo is from a news conference from the NFL Super Bowl Host committee. Everyone is pumped and prepared!
AFC-NFC Love… And no, I don’t mean the Patriots and Giants! We found a man who says he is the BIGGEST Pats fan in Indy. He happens to be married to a Colts fan. They say they are divorced a few hours every year when their teams play… But it’s all in good fun!
I was out for a stroll with the intention of snapping some photos for our blog when my travels took me to Lucas Oil Stadium of all places. It was there that I stumbled upon a temporary Patriots street sign put in place close to the site of Super Bowl XLVI (appropriately). I then found myself walking into the side gates of the stadium, through intense security which included metal detectors inside Lucas Oil and then down the tunnel onto the field. I think I froze for a good 6 minutes, until my mission of exploring the stadium began. I was lucky enough to walk on the field, see both teams locker rooms and sit in the seats. Oh, and did I mention they had just painted the logos on the field? Perhaps the horse shoes on a majority of the seats will prove lucky for Tom Brady and the Patriots come Sunday…
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The city of Providence suffered a costly legal defeat on Monday as a judge ruled the Taveras administration can’t force its retirees to sign up for Medicare next month.
Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter, who ruled against the state government in a major pension case last year, granted Providence retirees an injunction that blocks the city from moving them and their spouses to the federal health insurance program for the elderly until a full trial is held.
“It is clear that the city continues to suffer a sever financial crisis,” Taft-Carter wrote in her decision, and therefore has “a legitimate public purpose” for moving the retirees to Medicare. But she blamed the city for failing to take steps to scale back its promises to retirees in contracts signed before the current crisis.
The judge’s decision – and her skepticism toward the city’s claims – is likely to raise alarm bells at City Hall and on Smith Hill, as the Medicare case was widely seen as a test of both Providence’s and the state’s ability to get courts to allow changes in the generosity of benefits promised years ago.
Rhode Island, along with the rest of the country, has a health care problem, with the ever-rising cost of medicine weighing down state and local budgets like an anchor.
Governor Chafee has emphasized that he wants to invest in education while maintaining social services, but Matt Yglesias argues those goals may be in conflict:
[I]n 1960, Medicaid didn’t exist so state governments spent $0 on it. By 1970 it was up and running but only cost $5.4 billion rising to $26 billion in 1980 …. By 2000 that was $200.5 billion and it got up to $401.4 billion in 2010. …
But it’s not as if liberals spent the 1980s and 1990s having enormous success in persuading voters to support higher taxes. Indeed, by 2008 the position of the Democratic Party was that 95 percent of the population was paying too much in taxes. You see at both the state and the federal level that between public aversion to taxes and public support for health care programs, the tendency is for other things to get squeezed.
Rhode Island’s state government spent $698 million on Medicaid in 2008-09. That was up from $466 million in 2003-04, a 50% increase in five years. Back in 1991, Rhode Island’s total Medicaid spending was $540 million – and that includes federal dollars, so if the state paid for half, it would be $270 million.
Does that mean we’re spending too much on Medicaid? Not necessarily. That’s a choice state leaders have to make based on what their constituents want the state to do. But that kind of cost growth will inevitably put pressure on other parts of the budget.
Chris Coyne is the Catholic Bishop of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. He is also a huge Patriot’s fan! He just moved here from Boston a year ago and people joke that he had something to do with the Pats making it to Super Bowl 46 in Indy (perhaps divine intervention?). Bishop Coyne says he had nothing to do with it! He also can not wait to watch the game at Lucas Oil Stadium this weekend!
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s labor unions added 4,000 members last year as the state continued to be one of the most heavily organized in the nation, according to a new report from the U.S. Labor Department.
Union membership rose to 79,000 of Rhode Island’s 453,000 workers in 2011, or 17.4 percent of the labor force, the government said. That was up from 75,000 members and 16.4 percent of the work force in 2010.
Government number-crunchers have warned in the past that the relatively small annual fluctuations in union membership here may be a statistical mirage because of Rhode Island’s small size.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Treasurer Gina Raimondo thinks the best way to fix the state’s 36 locally run pension plans is to move them into the state-run system. But making that happen will be easier said than done.
“I believe that, ultimately, the long-run answer is get everybody in MERS,” Raimondo told WPRI.com last week during a half-hour interview in her State House office, using the acronym for the state-run Municipal Employees Retirement System. “The question is, how exactly do you that?”
The 36 local plans have a combined unfunded liability of $2.1 billion, but about 40% of that shortfall is in one city: Providence, where Mayor Angel Taveras has clashed with Raimondo over whether the General Assembly should pass legislation giving communities the green light to freeze pension cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs).
“I would be delighted to sit down with Providence if they would like any help,” Raimondo said. “I’ve offered. They say they have it under control. That’s great. I hope they do.”
Pats press conference number one in the books. Coach Belichick was relaxed and funny and his team seemed to follow suit. Bill even made fun of himself saying that Colts fans have been much more hospitable since the 4th and 2 incident in 2009.
If your wondering the Patriots will practice tomorrow, take Tuesday (media day) off, then settle back into a normal schedule. That will be the theme for a Super Bowl seasoned team led by Belichick and owner Robert Kraft. Stay loose and follow the process in hopes of capturing another Lombardi Trophy.
The Giants will arrive tomorrow and jump head first into the craziness that is Super Bowl week. Is arriving early an advantage or a disadvantage? Hard to say really but here’s a possible omen for Pats fans. The last team to arrive the Sunday before the Super Bowl and win the big game: The Patriots in Super Bowl 39
Windy and chilly in the Super Bowl village today. Most of the people were local Colts fans (haha) but we did manage to track down 1 Patriots fan who is all smiles these days at his Indianapolis home, but his father, who is a Colts fan, can’t say the same!