October 22, 2014
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My take on the news
State can do without another transportation bond
Lonnie Barham

ANOTHER SHAMEFUL STATISTIC FOR RHODE ISLAND: A recent Gallup Politics report shows that, tied with Hawaii, Rhode Island is the most one-sided state in the union regarding its Democratic political affiliation or inclination. We are the most one-party Democrat state in the nation! Is this something we should be proud of? Just the opposite! Anyone who believes in the most important tenet of an effective electoral process – the two party system – is ashamed of this disgraceful statistic. It shows that Rhode Island's citizens have overwhelmingly bought into the tax-and-spend philosophy of the Democratic party and have turned a deaf ear to opposing parties' pleas for fiscal restraint. How can a plumber or accountant in Rhode Island think so differently than a plumber or accountant in Idaho or Wyoming?

SAKONNET BRIDGE TOLL: The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority is making final plans to institute tolls on the Sakonnet Bridge beginning in June of next year. Disregarding study after study proving tolls are the least efficient method of revenue collection, Rhode Island is going forth with this archaic initiative. When the costs of installing and operating tolls, and the costs of wasted gasoline, time and environmental pollution caused by long lines of toll payers are deducted from the revenues gained, there is a net loss of revenue. A far more sensible way to finance bridge maintenance is to raise the state's gasoline tax by a cent or two per gallon. This would result in a net gain in revenue instead of a loss and would save our environment the cost of so much exhaust pollution pouring into the atmosphere at tollbooths. Employers and vacationers would also reap benefits by regaining the time wasted at these dinosaur cash collection stations.

STATE FINALLY TIGHTENING ITS BELT: Kudos to Governor Lincoln Chafee and the R.I. Department of Transportation (DOT) for finally going through an election cycle without a transportation bond on the ballot. Few can recall an election when the DOT has not asked voters to approve massive borrowing to finance highway construction and maintenance, borrowing that has boosted the state's interest payments on transportation debt to $50 million per year. With continued borrowing, taxpayers would soon be shelling out more money in interest each year than the amount used for highway work. Conversely, if the governor and his successors continue to refrain from borrowing every two years, the interest debt will drop to zero in just 20 years.
We've talked a lot recently about payday lenders and their customers who continue to finance their interest by more borrowing until they reach the point of paying far more in interest than they originally borrowed. Rhode Island has been mired in the same fruitless borrowing pattern for decades. Finally, taxpayers are getting some relief.

PAY RAISES FOR GOVERNOR'S STAFF: While Governor Chafee deserves tremendous credit for keeping borrowing for transportation projects off the November ballot, he doesn't seem to be doing any belt-tightening regarding the salaries of his staff. Chafee recently gave some tremendous pay raises, to include a 10 percent raise for his deputy chief of staff, a 17 percent increase for his communications director, a 26 percent boost for a communications analyst, and a whopping 62 percent pay raise for a scheduler whose title is to change but whose responsibilities will remain the same.
We trust the old adage, "you get what you pay for," applies in this case and those who got the large raises are providing services equal to or greater than the value of their new salaries. Perhaps some of them were responsible for nudging Chafee to keep transportation bonds off the ballot. Those in the governor's office who are helping streamline government, reduce borrowing and protect taxpayers are well deserving of hefty raises.

CICILLINE'S FIRST CAMPAIGN AD: Congressman David Cicilline kicked off his re-election campaign advertising with a 30-second skit starring four constituents who praise Cicilline for helping them with various problems. The ad ends with the proclamation that Cicilline has helped over 800 individuals during the past two years with specific personal problems. What the ad conveniently leaves out is how the rookie congressman has failed to help the other 523,000 constituents in his district. Our taxes fund employees in both of our congressmen's offices whose only responsibility is to assist constituents with problems. Helping constituents is simply part of the job for any congressman's office. For a congressman to brag about adequately doing a small part of his job while mentioning nothing about failing at the national level to accomplish anything good for 99.99 percent of constituents is disingenuous at best.

TRUTH IN COMICS: Of all places to find an unassailable truth, one would suspect a comic strip might be one of the last. Yet, in the Providence Journal's Sunday comics an irrefutable truth was depicted in the strip Mother Goose & Grimm. At a table labeled "Justice League of America" sat Flash, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. To her left sat an ancient curmudgeon in a wheelchair whose age appeared to be about 100.
Whispering to one another:
Flash: "They say no one can touch him."
Superman: "He's indestructible."
Batman: "Unbeatable. He can't be moved!"
Wonder Woman, pointing to the decrepit old gentleman, cried out, "IT'S TENURE MAN!
School administrators, good teachers and, especially, parents can all identify with the message of this funny but painfully true comic strip. A tenured teacher, indeed any employee in a tenured position, is there forever, regardless of his or her inability to do the job. "Indestructible" and "can't be moved" are perfect descriptors. It's so unfortunate for our kids and for the America of our future.


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