End Legislative Grants

All of them. While we all wait for the other, more salacious, shoe to drop regarding the investigation of former State Rep and House Finance Chairman, Ray Gallison, D-Bristol, the Providence Journal has been focusing on the general abuse of what are called legislative grants. Thursday’s one-inch headline “Grants Misused” and today’s equally bold “A Trail of Abuse” cover several depressing individual articles. I found a useful primer in these slushlike funds in “Troubled History of Assembly Grants.”

General Assembly-approved grants fall into two categories: community service grants and straight legislative grants.

Community service grants are usually larger awards for entities, such as the AEP, that the lawmakers place in the budgets of various state agencies, whether they asked for them or not. This year they total $11.6 million.

Legislative awards are usually smaller and move directly to the local youth hockey team, as an example, courtesy of the lawmaker who pushed it through the General Assembly. This year’s tally is $2.2 million.

The ProJo included some useful charts in their coverage. Click here to see where $2.2 million in legislative grants has gone. I’m sure the Ancient Order of Hibernians are lovely people, but perhaps Senator Paiva-Weed can find a way to honor them that does not involve my tax dollars. Go here to see how $11.6 million was distributed in the form of community grants?

Just recently the General Assembly News (4.13.16) reported on a few gifts from House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello to his hometown of Cranston.

Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello today presented a $15,000 legislative grant to the Cranston Police Department to enhance its motorcycle patrol unit at the Cranston Police Station.

Two years ago, Speaker Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) provided a $15,000 legislative grant to reinstitute a motorcycle patrol unit for the Traffic Division.

To say that these grants were anything but election-year sops to a powerful union doesn’t begin to pass the laugh test. So basically, you and I, and every other Rhode Island taxpayer, have been subsidizing Mattiello’s re-election campaigns.

Ian Donnis at RIPR reported only a few days later that former gubernatorial candidate Ken Block is calling on Governor Raimondo to seek a Supreme Court opinion on the constitutionality of these grants.

“The recipients of these grants are selected by legislative leadership, and the entire program runs without any input from the executive branch of government,” Block said Tuesday, in a statement released by his WatchdogRI organization.

Last year it was the recreation programs of Mattiello’s hometown that benefited. From GoLocalProv.

The final fiscal year 2015 Rhode Island legislative grants are out, and Cranston received nearly twice the House funding for recreation programs than Providence  — whose youth population is two and half times that of Cranston, and poverty level is three times as much.

John Marion had this to say;

“You can go on the state’s website now, but that doesn’t mean the process is any more transparent than before. [Grants] are not awarded in a public meeting, they’re not awarded on some sort of scoring system that’s made public, there’s no vote on the awarding them by joint committee on legislative services,” said John Marion with Common Cause Rhode Island. “Info is more accessible now, but the decision making is just as opaque.”

Even when not abused, these grants are essentially forcing taxpayers to subsidize the re-election campaigns of legislators they may despise. And, as we now see with Mr. Gallison, the grants can easily be siphoned directly into the pockets of unscrupulous legislators.

So, an easy fix in these belt-tightening times, end all the general assembly-approved legislative grants. Now . . . bring on the bimbo eruptions.

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