October 26, 2014
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Rhode Island’s best and worst
Lonnie Barham

RI PENSION SYSTEM NAMED AMERICA’S BEST: Our public employee unions can cackle on as much as they want and closely supervise their entirely biased “pension investigator” who was hired to give them the opinion they want on our reformed pension plan and its author, General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, but that doesn’t change the fact that our new pension system is the envy of all other small pension plans in the country. The respected financial magazine Institutional Investor, a publication that tracks best practices among all institutional investment plans in America, has proclaimed Rhode Island’s public pension system the “best small public pension plan in the nation.” Congratulations to Gina Raimondo for having the intelligence, courage and political savvy to put together our pension plan. Now, if she can only defend it against lobbying unions and their clearly biased “investigator,” and from our many weak-willed legislators!

BUT OUR ROADS ARE NEXT TO WORST: It seems that a new list comes out every week that ranks states for something, either good or bad. Last week was no exception. The most recent list reported by state the quality and costliness of the nation’s roads. Rhode Island again made news for the low quality and low cost-effectiveness of its road system. Rhode Island came in at 49th overall, with only Alaska having worse roads than the Ocean State.

How did we end up that low on the list? It resulted from a combination of our deficient bridges (worst in the country at 50th), rural roads in poor condition (second worst in the nation at 49th), and urban interstate congestion (near the bottom at 42nd). All this while Rhode Island spends two to three times the national average per mile on its road system. Where’s all that extra money going? No doubt to special interests, especially to labor unions who still seem to have extraordinary control over our legislature.

 

GENERAL ASSEMBLY BLACKMAIL: The General Assembly passed a bill that overrides the state law that exempts non-profits from local property taxes. In an egregious overreach of its legislative responsibilities, the legislature amended the law to allow the town of Smithfield to levy property taxes on Bryant University unless the university gives in and agrees to pay fees to the municipality. First, it is terribly wrong for our legislature to pick and choose winners and losers when it comes to tax-exempt status. It’s equally bad for the lawmakers to pick and choose which city or town is immune to the law and can tax non-profits. Second, it is an awful precedent to set; which non-profit will the legislature target next? Worse, however, is the outright blackmail the legislature is practicing when it threatens Bryant with the message, “either make a deal to pay fees to Smithfield or we’ll make you pay property taxes to the town.”

We have far too many non-profits who benefit from the tax exemption. Many, perhaps most, should be taxed. However, unless the General Assembly is prepared to pass legislation greatly restricting this tax exemption across the state, it should not be meddling in local affairs and singling out one non-profit for punishment. Let’s hope Governor Chafee vetoes the bill.    

 

GUN MAKERS WON’T MOVE TO RHODE ISLAND: House Minority Leader Brian Newberry issued an invitation a month or two ago to one of the world’s largest gun makers, Beretta, to move its manufacturing facilities to Rhode Island from Maryland after that state enacted onerous gun laws following the Newtown, Conn. tragedy. Beretta answered Newberry last week. The company noted that its decisions on where to locate manufacturing facilities are based on a state’s consistency in supporting Second Amendment rights, to include whether any of its cities have sued gun manufacturers in an attempt to blame guns for criminal misconduct of persons, and how the state’s congressional delegation has voted on federal bills that would restrict gun ownership.

That criteria clearly eliminates Rhode Island from consideration by any gun maker. All four members of our congressional delegation – Senators Reed and Whitehouse and Representatives Langevin and Cicciline – strongly support restricting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens through passage of draconian federal gun-control laws. State Representative Newberry and any others who think gun makers might consider moving to Rhode Island are tilting at windmills so long as our congressional delegation is so eager to deprive us of constitutional rights.

RHODE ISLAND COMPANY HAMMERED ON HIRING: If it were not pathetic, it would be funny. The U.S. Justice Department has levied a heavy fine on a Rhode Island company, Vincent Porcaro, Inc. (VPI), has required it to pay back pay, and has put it under Justice Department supervision for two years.  What dastardly crime did VPI commit? It required non-citizen applicants to submit immigration documents proving their immigration status and their work eligibility. The Justice Department says this violated the Immigration and Naturalization Act because it “discriminated against non-citizens...by demanding more or different documents than U.S. citizens are required to present.”  Well, duh! How exactly is an employer supposed to determine whether or not a non-citizen applicant is here legally and is authorized to work in our country? Wasn’t VPI doing exactly what the immigration reform initiative wending its way through Congress requires? Even Larry, Moe and Curly would probably have gotten this one right; but not the stooges from our Justice Department. Such inane decisions by the Justice Department make it easy to empathize with those who call the organization the Injustice Department.

LANGEVIN THEATRICS: Al Peaslee, a Newport resident, wrote an outstanding commentary piece for last Wednesday’s Providence Journal.  He talked about Congressman Jim Langevin’s and other Democrats’ “publicity stunt” as they recently attempted to protest Republicans’ attempt to reduce the cost of the food stamp program by “limit(ing) their food budget to $4.50 per day,” the average amount each food stamp recipient receives. He also excoriated the press for failing to tell the real story about the food stamp program.

So what’s the “publicity stunt” and what’s the real story? It’s Langevin’s and the news media’s purposeful misleading of the public about how much food assistance those using food stamps actually receive from the rest of the taxpayers. The $4.50 per day is the average received by an individual. For the average family of four, that equates to $18 per day, $126 per week, or $6,552 per year. Did Langevin or any of his Democrat cohorts say they were going to try to feed their families on only $6,500 per year? Of course not! That’s too honest and factual. That phrase wouldn’t translate to publicity-grabbing headlines. It wouldn’t because most of us realize that we could feed a family of four without being overly frugal on a government handout of $6,500 per year – especially when the program is meant to “supplement” a food budget, not cover the entire cost of a family’s food. Good job, Mr. Peaslee!       

OBAMA PLAYING DIRTY POLITICS WITH HEALTH CARE: After telling us for years that Obamacare was absolutely necessary to increase the number of Americans with health insurance, President Obama has now decided to postpone the most important provision of the misnamed Affordable Care Act – the requirement for business with 50 or more employees to provide health insurance for their employees. It was supposed to take effect in 2014, but after Republicans made it clear they would make it an issue in the 2014 congressional elections, Obama made a political decision to delay implementation until 2015 – until after the congressional elections.

So, which is more important to Obama – the health of as many Americans as possible, or the political careers of congressional Democrats seeking re-election? Regardless of his incessant rhetoric on the subject, it seems clear that Americans’ health is not Obama’s primary concern.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Ken Block, founder of the Moderate Party, on how our General Assembly throws the rules out in the last few days of a session and allows new bills to the floor that have had no public scrutiny: “No bill should be allowed to just pop up in the final few days of the session, yet that happened time and time again. It defies common sense that the legislature follows one set of rules for most of the session, and then dumps the rules right when they are needed most.” Hallelujah, Ken! You’ve hit the nail on the head!


Comments
1 comment on this item

Getting a 2% return on investments when you project 7% is the envy of ALL pension systems in the country?? Something to be envious about?? Although I do agree this editorial writer knows a lot about entirely biased opinions. Breaking contracts is ok as long as it's not your own.

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