Rate this
Lookout
Still time to wind up the RI clock and the economy
John Hazen White, Jr.

Turn Off the Lights on the Way Out

The Ocean State’s loss of population during the past decade, based on reported estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, is another negative reflection of the state’s poor economy and the lack of job opportunities here. During that period the state lost around 24,000 people, representing not just people leaving but their spending and taxable dollars, too. Many of the departures were young folks seeking better opportunities elsewhere. The 24,000 also include retirees (some of them, of course, public sector retirees carrying their pensions with them) making the great Route 95 South migration to the Sunshine State.

Population loss in Rhode Island slowed during the recession years starting in 2007 because few states (other than North Dakota and Montana) were offering much in the way of job opportunities or public assistance programs as generous as Rhode Island’s, so complete was the recession across the nation. As the economy recovers, however, other areas of the country will become attractive once again as destinations for those willing to relocate, and then we could see an up-tick in population migration, as Rhode Island remains stuck in its economic doldrums.

Losing our young people to other states is a serious threat to our future. It could even impact our representation in Congress. Imagine Rhode Island losing a Congressional seat because of its declining population. Is there anything that spells out trouble in a more dramatic way than that? Perpetual dismal national rankings and now census data on population loss should be wakeup calls to our politicians that there is no greater or more urgent priority than to do what it takes to reform the state’s economy, which brings us to the next column.

Change is Hard to Come By in RI

With the start of the new year, our political leaders are in chorus about the need to help our economy get moving again. It’s the top item on just about everyone’s agenda for the new legislative session. But that doesn’t mean that much will actually be accomplished to get the wheels turning. Are business regulations and taxes still a hindrance? Of course they are, despite acknowledgement of these problems for a long time now. Not much changes. Should such a small state regionalize for greater efficiencies and cost savings? Yes, but have you seen much of that actually happen?

The state suffered a serious blow in the 38 Studios fiasco, one that called into question the very structure and priorities of the EDC. Studies and recommendations for reform emerged from a number of sides, but where are we today on taking up any of the ideas to restructure the EDC? Pretty much where we were before, with Governor Chafee not in any great hurry to make real changes. He’s even elevated an EDC career bureaucrat to head the agency, hardly the kind of shakeup that many people were expecting. Hopefully, the leadership in the General Assembly won’t let that be the last word on that subject.

And then there’s the pension reform court battle, just a little more than a year after passage of the historic legislation that was seen as the one thing that our small state could hang it’s hat on. Court-ordered mediation demonstrates the power of the public employee unions and their hold on the branches of government. It’s been said before that there could come a time when the only people remaining in Rhode Island will be those who just can’t move away and the public employee unions.

The clock is ticking down on Rhode Island’s future. There’s still time to wind it up again, but only if we act decisively – and without any more delay.


Comments
2 comments on this item

I couldn't agree with this article more. Although, we are coming back to RI after 5 years retired in Florida, because our family needs us. I would like to mention that it is no longer cheap to live in Florida. They do not cater to the "snowbirds" any more. Their emphasis is on the tourists and the revenue that they bring in. Seniors have better choices than the brutal heat and costant return trips up north. Those that retire full time in Florida suffer from what I call "revovling door" healthcare. You do not get the close care that you need and the attitude is that there are more of you to come and take your place when you leave. I have had 4 primary care physicians in 5 years. Northerners seek out their own kind as southerners do not take up with you because you end up leaving or you have a different set of cultural beliefs. Homelessness down here is epidemic and with Obama care reving up I can see that there will be a great increase in the need for revenue. I can see that state income tax will be in the near future for this state. Crime is rampant. Everyone has a home burglary system and most have guns. We have a Stand Your Ground Law here that allows you to shoot someone if you feel threatened and they do! Agian, there is a shift is greatly toward tourism and not attracting seniors. That is were the money is. Old people shop at the many many thrift stores. So, hold on to your purse if you come down here. The real state prices are starting to go up agian and that cheap purchase will start costing you in property taxes. Property taxes have increased even as the market and home evaluations have gone down. I have met a lot of very "homesick" seniors down here that often call this the "standing cemetary" as they wait out their time separated from their familys. If you golf, or hate to shovel snow it is a great place. But, ladies that do neither of these things, you still have the duties of the homemaker that you always had, minus the time with you family and the culture you enjoy, while your husband is at the golf course or just reading the paper, which is often depressing. THink before you hurry on down. Try a 6 month condo rental, but, remember life stops being a vacation after the first month when isolation sets in. Your only friends are through volunterism or drinking at the Elks! And that gets old quick! Rhode Island ranks with the worst states right now. Florida ranks with Rhode Island. Stay home and work towards the reform you never worked on but only complained about or choose another state. Just an honest opinion from someone who tried it. The grass is not greener. In fact, growing a garden in this state is impossible!

Those who are leaving are a) well educated, b) well compensated, and c) have had it with RI's confiscatory tax structure. And what do we see in the 1/29 Projo? "Labor, advocates renew campaign to end tax breaks for the wealthy" Huh? Tax "breaks"?! The "wealthy" already pay a vastly disproportionate amount of taxes in RI. But to the average under-educated, bitter, envy driven Rhode Islander someone with 'wealth' is screwing them. And how does a Rhode Islander define "wealth"? Anyone who makes a dollar more than me.

Keep in mind three factors: 1. RI has the highest total tax burden in New England. 2. RI has the second lowest median adult education level in New England. 3. RI has the second highest percent of it's adult population who were born and raised in the state and never left. Result: RI is chock full of people who willing pay astronomical taxes becasue they don't know any other way. And until Rhode Islanders stop feeding the government pig, none of this will change. Those with means, skills, and education will continue to leave and the pie will continue to shrink.

You must be logged in to post a comment. Click here to log in.
Welcome to RIjobs.com
Copyright © 2014, Beacon Communications. Powered by: Creative Circle Advertising Solutions, Inc.