To the editor:
There’s an interesting and infuriating Political Scene article in the Monday, Feb. 9, ProJo (Providence Journal) entitled “Big paychecks, new titles for dozens at State House.” The article begins: “The start of the new legislative session sparked raises of up to 22% for more than two dozen General Assembly staffers….” The story went on to detail raise after raise for 27 staffers “as part of the reorganization of staff…” and compensation adjustments “based on new titles, meritorious service and additional duties.”
Rhode Island ranks No. 1 in unemployment, No. 1 in “spreading the wealth” (according to 247wallst.com), and last or close to it by almost any other measure by which Rhode Island is compared to the rest of the nation. Our state—which should be thriving on its abundance of natural resources, tourist meccas, prestigious colleges and universities, arts and restaurants—is mired in economic misery.
And these folks in the General Assembly think it’s a good idea to give promotions and hefty raises to their staffers in part because of their meritorious service and additional duties? How many workers in the private sector have had to shoulder the burden of additional duties when their co-workers were laid off and not replaced?
Put this together with whatever secret negotiations have been going on regarding the state’s pension plan; the GA’s decision to saddle the taxpayers with the $75M+ burden from the 38 Studios disaster—despite the fact that the people of Rhode Island did not vote for this measure and that the investors were fully aware that the bond was not backed by the full faith and credit of the state of Rhode Island; and throw in the fact that the leadership of the GA has so far refused to allow an up-or-down vote on the elimination of the master lever. And what do you get? A body of lawmakers who seem tone-deaf to the plight of the citizenry.
I know several of our legislators from the East Providence area. I know them to be good and decent individuals who seem to be motivated to do their best. But, put them in a pack with lead dogs Speaker Fox and Senate President Paiva-Weed, and they seem to forget that there’s a real world out here, outside the confines of the State House and the ministrations of lobbyists and union officials, who are often one and the same.
We’re so far in the hole, I don’t honestly know how we’ll drag ourselves out. But, for one, let’s stop digging the hole. Then, let’s abolish the master lever and take it from there.