The Fiscal Year 2014 Rhode Island Budget was passed last week by the General Assembly due in no small part to a pair of local politicians, Rep. Helio Melo and Sen. Daniel DaPonte, the chairs of the respective Committees on Finance in each chamber.
While far from perfect, especially considering the significant deficit the state faces in the fiscal year on the horizon, the document is, as Chairman Melo said in an interview in this week’s edition of The Post and at eastbayri.com, just about the best the leaders could muster under the circumstances.
There are no increases in personal income taxes. There are increases in municipal aid, something that certainly benefits East Providence. (The city is expected to receive about $1.8 million more for education and just under $1 million more in general funds than it did a year ago.) There are attempts, albeit conservative ones, to stimulate economic growth. But following the 38 Studios debacle and the still tepid financial climate in the state, a less aggressive approach was expected and the most politically expedient course of action.
The state’s budget, in certain aspects, is bloated. Any reasonable observer would agree. However, Rhode Island as a whole, as are its cities and towns, is at a crossroads. We must figure out the best way forward, a direction that includes sound investment in both our people and our resources. What we shouldn’t do is get bogged down in the same political tripe like that which happens yearly in Washington, D.C.
Comparing Rhode Island’s budget to others around the country, especially those states much larger than ours, is often a canard used by those trolling the bottom of political depths. It’s apples to oranges to attempt to make the fiscal plan necessary here analogous with other regions and demographics. It just doesn’t hold much water.
Ultimately, leaders like Rep. Melo and Sen. DaPonte must carry our water. They will be responsible for our futures. The challenge will be great. Check back here a year from now to see if those in charge on Smith Hill were up to it.