Two problems plague Rhode Island: union hall dominance in the statehouse and tax-and-spend statism. Of course, the hostile business climate is not helping matters, but the first two deserve closer attention. No wonder some residents have complained that Rhode Island turning into a microcosm of socialism, in which the takers outnumber the makers.
Then again, the idea that Rhode Island, or any other state, is on the brink is pure lunacy. A comeback is always possible. If the dead can be raised back to life, since Easter is the time to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, along with the rebirth of nature following the dormant months of winter, then surely even a state saddled with a strange yet perverse legacy of spending and entitlement burdens can bounce back and recover. too.
Public sector employees received collective bargaining rights during the tenure of Governor John Chafee, a Republican who abandoned his principles, even the ones that he campaigned on to get elected.
He also instituted a state income tax. Lord have mercy!
Former Governor John Chafee's legacy is still chafing the residents of Rhode Island today, and the Republican Party. The latest Republican election is showing the signs of life, including the growing pains of the "Old liberal wing" vs. the new leadership that wants to keep the voice, stand on the values, then get the votes for the Republican Party.
In the meantime, Governor Lincoln Chafee has the opportunity to amend the mistakes, or to correct the failures of his father. By doing so, he can further establish his "Independent" status, the same way that Republicans can cheer when President Obama issues waivers for the very un-Republican mandate "No Child Left Behind".
Instead of getting rid of the sales tax, which GOP minority leader Brian Newberry had suggested, why not get rid of the income tax? New Hampshire only taxes dividends and interest. No income tax!
As for collective bargaining and pension reforms, Chafee can take a cue from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who works with private sector union party bosses in the Trenton state house. In one interview, Christie reminded the journalist that New Jersey laborers will thank him years down the road, because the reforms that he instituted saved their pensions. Christie also cut taxes three years in a row while balancing the budget to do so.
For a better example of collective bargaining reform, look no further than Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, whose "Act 10" reforms instituted paycheck protection for public employees, while also requiring them to contribute more toward their pensions, though not as much as employees in the private sector. The most important reforms, however, freed up school districts and cities to renegotiate expensive medical benefits and other labor contracts without the resistance of labor unions.
If that's not enough, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's "Workplace Fairness and Equity" reforms have freed up all workers in the Wolverine State. Now, workers can choose whether to join a union or not, and the unions will be able to prove beyond any doubt that they serve the best interests of their members. The latter two governors' proposals may shake up Chafee more than Christie's efforts, but Rhode Island has a history of upstarts and rebellion.
Collective bargaining reforms do not have to strip workers of their right to organize, nor their dignity to be represented. However, the onerous entitlement systems which previous administrations have signed off on, without consent or even consideration of future geneations of taxpayers, has created an unsustainable system of debt and demand which may destroy the state's fiscal viability.
General Treasurer Gina Raimondo deserves credit for her candor with Ocean State residents. However, Rhode Island Republicans are also devising plans which will respect the constributions of public workers, both occupationa; and financial, while instituting structural changes which will save the state, workers' jobs, and their pensions. Democrats want to keep putting more blood in the corpse, while Republicans want to bring the state back to life and thriving commerce.
Governor Lincoln Chafee, 'tis the season to celebrate sacrifice and resurrection, the death of the Old Covenant and the installation of the New. Breathe life back into your state, atone for the sins of your father, and abolish the state income tax and reform collective bargaining entitlements in Providence.