The vote on the supplemental budget, whose purpose is to close RI’s fiscal ’09 deficit, is scheduled for this Wednesday. It’s stirred up a lot of ire, largely because it takes away more than $55 million from cities and towns.
To put that in loose perspective — Providence would lose about $16 million. The city’s budget is around $600 million, but we’re already 3/4 of the way through the fiscal year. So the city would need to close a gap equal to more than 10% of expected expenditures. About half of that money is spent on schools, so the gap would be more than 20% of non-school expenditures. About half of the rest is spent on public safety, which entails strict minimum staffing levels: Costs would go up with lay-offs, since you’d need to pay people overtime to fill all of the required shifts. So the $16 million amounts to about 40% of non-school, non-public safety spending. You get the point…
And all of that’s on top of the fact that RI funds it cities and towns at a lower rate than most states, forcing an over-reliance on property taxes, which are the major source of revenue for municipalities. (Despite a lot of rhetoric that says we over-tax the wealthy here, it’s property taxes that are out of whack — our sales and income and capital gains revenues are precisely normal.) And, on top of it all, we’ve forced tight property tax caps on cities and towns, leaving them with basically no options.
There’s a lot of push-back against the budget, with Reps Sullivan and Fierro twittering their opposition. I’m a bit of a dinosaur, having only announced my likely no-vote via blog. There are increasingly rumors that we might be seeing some key amendments, but it’d be silly to pretend anything is certain until it happens. Or doesn’t. Stay tuned to RIFuture for regular updates.
(Image borrowed from these guys.)