Rhode Island Policy Reporter

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A look at the lousy situation Rhode Island is in, how we got here, and how we might be able to get out.

Budget Demystification!
Fiscal Derring-Do!
Economic Jiggery-Pokery!

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RIPR is a (paper) newsletter and a weekly column appearing in ten of Rhode Island's finer newspapers. The goal is to look at local, state and federal policy issues that affect life here in the Ocean State, concentrating on action, not intentions or talk.

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whole site RIPR back issues

Available Back Issues:

  • Aug 09 (38) - How your government's economic policies have worked against you. What a fake nineteenth century nun can teach us about the tea party protests.
  • Jun 09 (37) - Statistics of optimism, the real cost of your government. Judith Reilly on renewable tax credits. Review of Akerlof and Shiller on behavioral economics.
  • Apr 09 (36) - Cap and trade, the truth behind the card check controversy, review of Governor's tax policy workgroup final report.
  • Feb 09 (35) - The many varieties of market failures, and what classic economics has to say about them, review of Nixonland by Rick Perlstein.
  • Dec 08 (34) - Can "Housing First" end homelessness? The perils of TIF. Review of You Can't Be President by John MacArthur.
  • Oct 08 (33) - Wage stagnation, financial innovation and deregulation: creating the financial crisis, the political rhetoric of the Medicaid waiver.
  • Jul 08 (32) - Where has the money gone? Could suburban sprawl be part of our fiscal problem? Review of Bad Money by Kevin Phillips, news trivia or trivial news.
  • Apr 08 (31) - Understanding homelessness in RI, by Eric Hirsch, market segmentation and the housing market, the economics of irrationality.
  • Feb 08 (30) - IRS migration data, and what it says about RI, a close look at "entitlements", historic credit taxonomy, an investment banking sub-primer.
  • Dec 07 (29) - A look at the state's underinsured, economic geography with IRS data.
  • Oct 07 (28) - Choosing the most expensive ways to fight crime, bait and switch tax cuts, review of Against Prediction, about the perils of using statistics to fight crime.
  • Aug 07 (27) - Sub-prime mortgages fall heaviest on some neighborhoods, biotech patents in decline, no photo IDs for voting, review of Al Gore's Against Reason
  • Jun 07 (26) - Education funding, budget secrecy, book review of Boomsday and the Social Security Trustees' Report
  • May 07 (25) - Municipal finance: could citizen mobility cause high property taxes? What some Depression-era economists had to say on investment, and why it's relevant today, again.
  • Mar 07 (24) - The state budget disaster and how we got here. Structural deficit, health care, borrowing, unfunded liabilities, the works.
  • Jan 07 (23) - The impact of real estate speculation on housing prices, reshaping the electoral college. Book review of Blocking the Courthouse Door on tort "reform."
  • Dec 06 (22) - State deficit: What's so responsible about this? DOT bonding madness, Quonset, again, Massachusetts budget comparison.
  • Oct 06 (21) - Book review: Out of Iraq by Geo. McGovern and William Polk, New rules about supervisors undercut unions, New Hampshire comparisons, and November referenda guide.
  • Aug 06 (20) - Measuring teacher quality, anti-planning referenda and the conspiracy to promote them, affordable housing in the suburbs, union elections v. card checks.
  • Jun 06 (19) - Education report, Do tax cut really shrink government?, Casinos and constitutions, State historic tax credit: who uses it.
  • May 06 (18) - Distribution analysis of property taxes by town, critique of RIEDC statistics, how to reform health care, and how not to.
  • Mar 06 (17) - Critique of commonly used statistics: RI/MA rich people disparity, median income, etc. Our economic dependence on high health care spending. Review of Crashing the Gate
  • Feb 06 (16) - Unnecessary accounting changes mean disaster ahead for state and towns, reforming property tax assessment, random state budget notes.
  • Jan 06 (15) - Educational equity, estimating the amount of real estate speculation in Rhode Island, interview with Thom Deller, Providence's chief planner.
  • Nov 05 (14) - The distribution of affordable houses and people who need them, a look at RI's affordable housing laws.
  • Sep 05 (13) - A solution to pension strife, review of J.K. Galbraith biography and why we should care.
  • Jul 05 (12) - Kelo v. New London: Eminent Domain, and what's between the lines in New London.
  • Jun 05 (11) - Teacher salaries, Veterinarian salaries and the minimum wage. Book review: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
  • Apr 05 (10) - Choosing a crisis: Tax fairness and school funding, suggestions for reform. Book review: business location and tax incentives.
  • Feb 05 (9) - State and teacher pension costs kept artificially high. Miscellaneous tax suggestions for balancing the state budget.
  • Dec 04 (8) - Welfare applications and the iconography of welfare department logos. The reality of the Social Security trust fund.
  • Oct 04 (7) - RIPTA and DOT, who's really in crisis?
  • Aug 04 (6) - MTBE and well pollution, Mathematical problems with property taxes
  • May 04 (5) - A look at food-safety issues: mad cows, genetic engineering, disappearing farmland.
  • Mar 04 (4) - FY05 RI State Budget Critique.
  • Feb 04 (3) - A close look at the Blue Cross of RI annual statement.
  • Oct 03 (2) - Taxing matters, a historical overview of tax burdens in Rhode Island
  • Oct 03 Appendix - Methodology notes and sources for October issue
  • Apr 03 (1) - FY04 RI State Budget critique
Issues are issued in paper. They are archived irregularly here.

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Deep archive


The Rhode Island Policy Reporter is an independent news source that specializes in the technical issues of public policy that matter so much to all our lives, but that also tend not to be reported very well or even at all. The publication is owned and operated by Tom Sgouros, who has written all the text you'll find on this site, except for the articles with actual bylines.


Creative Commons License Tom Sgouros

Thu, 30 Nov 2006

Who would have guessed?

A story in the Journal reports that the Rt 195 relocation project will eventually cost (counting interest) $775 million, at least. The article also points out the many ways in which the cost underestimates were known to be underestimates at the time they were developed.

The other important thing to realize about this project is that its original rationale was that delayed maintenance on the existing Rt 195 bridge would result in $50 million in bridge repairs, probably somewhat more.

So, to sum up, this huge expense was initiated because of mismanagement at DOT, and dozens of people in and around state government knew about the impending problem and chose to ignore it. And yet, according to the Governor, money spent on helping poor people is the root of our fiscal woes.

Update. From a memo on the subject, written (by me) in 1994:

About the proposed 195 shift, while it might make India Point nicer, and the jewelry district too, it is not clear that the proposed solution will be any more than marginally safer than the current road, whether it be north or south of Narragansett Electric. It is also a problem for these reasons: after the Jamestown Bridge, no one really believes the cost estimates, which are officially nearly half the ISTEA [Federal transportation dollars]allocation for the whole state. The potential to have this one project soak up what chance the state has to begin to finance a rational transportation system is great.

10:05 - 30 Nov 2006 [/y6/no]

Sun, 26 Nov 2006

Content? How unfashionable.

Via here, we learn about a profile of John McCain that actually appears to look into the substance of his views on important matters of public policy. How quaint.

16:04 - 26 Nov 2006 [/y6/no]

Tue, 21 Nov 2006

An interesting graph

The graph below shows all the towns in RI lined up by median income on the horizontal axis, while the vertical axis is performance on 11th grade reading tests. As expected, the relationship is pretty clear, though there are some outliers above and below the overall trend.

The graph is from the Shape of the Starting Line report about improving public education in Rhode Island. The data source is the Commissioner of Public Education in RI.

22:53 - 21 Nov 2006 [/y6/no]

Calling a Race

The important part of an article in the Cranston Herald (details and link below):

Meanwhile, Democrat candidate Michael Napolitano who, at last count, was up by 71 votes, has begun making preparations to take office on Jan. 1.


If either side had any doubt, they could have contacted local mentalist Rory Raven. Raven, at the request of the Herald, offered a sealed prediction of the outcome of the race.

The intent was to wait until the election was certified but, given the situation, the envelope was opened Tuesday afternoon at the Herald offices. So who won?

According to Raven, Napolitano -- by 70 votes.

Link here.

The story is missing the picture with this caption:

Above, Herald Editor Elizabeth Seal unfolds Rory Raven's sealed election prediction as Raven (left) watches. At left, Raven's handwritten prediction and the envelope it was delivered in. The envelope was mailed on Nov. 2 and had been on Seal's desk at the Herald ever since.
Rory's web site is roryraven.com.

22:35 - 21 Nov 2006 [/y6/no]

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