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1/22/2020 Paolino advocates for common sense spending fixes
STATE HOUSE – A state with a government running $200 million in the red while surrounding states thrive needs to make major changes, Senator Thomas J. Paolino, (R-Dist. 17, Lincoln, North Providence, North Smithfield) said.

“While the state’s economy is showing signs of improvement, the government is running a deficit. What’s wrong with this picture?” Paolino asked.  “Massachusetts currently has a $1 billion surplus.  Our state needs to prioritize financial stability and accountability if we want to compete.”

At $10 billion, Rhode Island’s 2020 budget is larger than that of New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.  States that have both larger populations and larger land areas, like Oklahoma with 4 million people and an $8 billion budget, are able to operate with less.  Maine’s budget is $8 billion total for two years, and their state has 1.3 million people.

“Rhode Island spends $10,000 for each of the 1 million people who live in the state,” Paolino said. “I question whether the average taxpayer receives $10,000 worth of services.”

The $10.2 billion 2021 spending proposal does little to address these concerns, Paolino said.  “It is more of the same, and the same is not working.  Every person has a budget that they need to balance and maintain, and if they don’t, they find themselves in financial trouble.  When that happens, people have to change their spending to make sure they’re meeting their needs.”

State government agencies must take a hard look at their spending priorities, said Paolino, who is a member of the Senate Finance Committee.  Those agencies should focus on “needs” and not “wants,” he said.  Implementing zero-based budgeting, he said, is a practical way to address those issues.

“We need the agencies that are running deficits to come to the committee and justify their overspending,” Paolino said.  “We need to find ways to run a leaner, more efficient government.  Responsible spending cuts would shift resources from often mismanaged and damaging government programs to more productive activities in the private sector.”  More responsible spending will also help the state prepare for fiscal challenges in the future, he said.  “We need to prepare for tougher times ahead.”

Approving a line-item veto, which would allow the governor to reject individual spending provisions instead of approving or rejecting it as a whole, is another common-sense approach.  Further, creating an Office of the Inspector General would help keep spending in check, Senator Paolino said.

The 2020 deficit is just another example of how the state’s spending problem puts it at the bottom of so many lists, Paolino said.

“Rhode Island is the third-worst state in the country to retire.  We have the 10th highest property tax rate in the country. We have job-killing regulations, which makes it challenging to attract businesses,” Paolino said.  “Without fiscal responsibility, the state will never get ahead.”

For more information, contact:
Katie Haughey Cardoza, Senate Minority Office
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-2708