Ted Nesi is off. He’ll return on Friday.
A reading of an old newspaper article (or a history book) can often provide insight into present circumstances. It’s enlightening, and a bit frustrating, to discover that the same battles tend to be fought decade after decade. So it is with Rhode Island. Take this accounting of Rhode Island’s problems:
- Unemployment is high, at 11%.
- State investment in education isn’t pretty; the governor balked at raising URI faculty pay by 3% while costs are increasing. Their union said most of the raise would pay health insurance premiums.
- Highways aren’t much better: Rhode Island has the fourth-highest rate of structurally deficient bridges in the United States.
- Income taxes are down; the highest bracket pays 5.99% on earnings over $129,900. The other tax brackets are 4.75% for earnings more than $57,150 and 3.75% on the rest of wage-earners [pdf]. Combined, state and local taxes take 11.9% from the 20% of taxpayers with the lowest incomes while reducing the incomes of the top 1% by a mere 5.6% [pdf].
- Observers are suggesting that the state should essentially fail to pay the loan guarantee it made for 38 Studios by fulfilling only the moral obligation. It might take a hit on its borrowing costs, but it’d be better than paying roughly $100 million to bondholders.
In contrast, a 2002 article by Brian Jones in the Providence Phoenix said that under former Gov. Lincoln Almond the following happened:
- Unemployment down to 4% from 7% in 1995.
- Half a billion dollars invested in construction at state colleges, while health insurance was increasing among Rhode Islanders.
- Roads improved while the interest rates on state bonds fell.
- Taxes down 10%.
Well, at least taxes are down even more since 2002. That’ll come as a relief to the 11% of Rhode Islanders still unemployed, and the others who are underemployed or simply aren’t counted because they’ve given up looking for jobs.
It’s incredible how a decade can make a difference. Lincoln Almond seems like the most competent administrator in the entirety of Rhode Island’s history. And this was a man portrayed on the front page of The Journal in 2002 as chronically asleep.