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Available Back Issues:
Issues are issued in paper. They are archived irregularly here.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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The Rhode Island Policy Reporter is an independent news source that
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except for the articles with actual bylines.
Mon, 30 Mar 2009
Deep six the supplemental budget
The House rewrite of the Governor's supplemental budget could hardly
be a worse document than the original budget, but it is just as bad.
On balance, you have to say it's slightly more realistic in its
assumptions, but it is crueler to the cities and towns. So take your
pick: a bad budget, based on unrealistic assumptions (from the
Governor) or a worse budget, based on realistic assumptions (from the
The budget ends general revenue sharing for the cities and towns.
This is a pot of about $55 million that is shared with all the
municipalities, and which they were all counting on in order to fill
out this year's budget. This is cut to zero in the House version.
Let's be clear about what's happening. Three-quarters of the way
through the fiscal year, cities and towns are being told they have to
suck it up and make up a whole year's worth of state aid. Providence
will lose $15 million under this budget. For comparison, the police
and fire departments are both about $43 million departments, and the
rest of the municipal government is about the same. So they'll have
to cut about 13% of their annual expenses in three months. In other
words, if everyone took six weeks off and went home, they might make
it. This doesn't consider the cuts to education aid, but there are
some of those, too, despite the addition of federal stimulus money.
To pick a random suburban town, in North Kingstown the loss
appears to be about 4-5% of the general municipal budget. So they'll
only need to give everyone two and a half weeks off, or otherwise find
a way to cut 20% of the budget for three months.
According to my understanding of the ARRA (stimulus) money, the
House budget front-loads the money more than the Governor had. The
Governor appeared to be saving some of the ARRA money for the next
fiscal year, which is sort of counter to the spirit of the stimulus.
On the other hand, the House budget scoops more of this money, giving
less of it to the towns, so that's counter to the spirit of the
A big part of the fiscal stimulus money was an increase in the
Medicaid match, which means the federal government's split of medicaid
costs would change from 52/48 to 55/45 or so. The legislature scooped
that money, too, cutting Medicaid expenses and keeping the additional
Medicaid money for the general revenue budget.
The good parts of the House changes are they scotched the idea of
selling state buildings to RI Housing as a way to loot that agency,
and they put off the Governor's weird pension savings, which weren't
really supported. But they didn't reject the pension cuts. They just
said we're not going to make any pension payments between April 2 and
June 30, while we await more documentation. I'm sure that on June 30,
they'll be happy to pony up.
And let's not forget that there is still a multi-million-dollar tax
cut in this budget. The flat tax is still due to go down a
half-percent this year, providing a huge break for a small number of
lucky people. While the rest of us watch the state crumble, those
folks will continue to fly first class.
There's much more; almost every page has a new outrage.
This budget is a disgrace to the people who wrote it and an affront
to anyone who cares about the future of our state, not to mention the
future of whatever city or town you live in. I don't think what's
wrong with it can be fixed by amendment, and I hope it goes down in
flames. Sadly, I fear this is unlikely, because there are very few
legislators with the courage to defy the leadership, but when the
leadership has led you into a disaster, why do you still follow?
22:28 - 30 Mar 2009 [/y9/ma]
Sun, 29 Mar 2009
Plus ca change...
From O. Henry's Rural Sports, one of his tales of Jeff
Peters, the con man:
"Farmers are not fair game to me as high up in
our business as me and Andy was; but there was times when we found 'em
useful, just as Wall Street does the Secretary of the Treasury now and
07:21 - 29 Mar 2009 [/y9/ma]
Sat, 21 Mar 2009
Have you wondered where the numbers come from when people say stuff
like "tax cuts are less stimulative than food stamps"? Much of them
come from estimates made by Moody's economy.com, and presented to
Congress last summer (2008). Find them here.
09:43 - 21 Mar 2009 [/y9/ma]
Mon, 09 Mar 2009
More good reading
Can be found at Closing
Arguments, a new blog by Matt Jerzyk, the founder (though no
longer the proprietor) of RI Future.
He intends to make it more about the legal and intellectual background
to the news. It's good stuff, go there and read it. Often.
22:30 - 09 Mar 2009 [/y9/ma]
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