ONE SHOE HAS DROPPED: Moody’s bond rating service has downgraded Rhode Island’s 38 Studios bonds by two notches and has indicated it is considering downgrading the rest of our $2.1 billion in bonded indebtedness - a move that will make our interest payments skyrocket and our expected budget deficit blossom. Sensible government leaders and financial advisors have pushed the legislature to reject bills that would prohibit the state from paying the defunct gaming company’s defaulted bonds. A Moody’s representative said: “Bonds that are debated in the legislature as to whether or not they should be paid exhibit a level of risk that we do not think is consistent with an ‘A’ rating.” If our legislators approve the state’s default on its moral obligation to pay these bonds, our bond rating on $2.1 billion of bonds will likely be lowered and our taxpayers will end up paying far more in increased interest payments than they will save by refusing to make good on a moral obligation. The other shoe will surely drop!
STATE’S APPROACH TO CASINO LAW DOESN’T BODE WELL: Only days before Twin River was to introduce live table games, Governor Chafee’s administration finally came up with a proposed bill to address casino crime and enforcement. Not only was the bill introduced so late that legislators asked to vote on it had no time to read and digest it, the bill was bereft of many provisions from the law it will replace regarding inside crimes such as bribery, conflicts of interest, and regulators seeking casino jobs. State government’s tardy, lackadaisical and incomplete approach to preparing casino crime legislation doesn’t bode well for how well the state will run live gaming at Twin River.
TAXES AND FEES VS. TOLLS FOR BRIDGE MAINTENANCE: The controversy over the planned Sakonnet bridge toll raises interesting questions about how our state should finance maintenance and repairs to our deteriorating roads and bridges. Is it fair to those who routinely use bridges with tolls to have to pay twice for bridge maintenance – once through gasoline taxes and transportation fees (vehicle inspection fees, driver’s license fees, etc.) and again through tolls? Is it fair for motorists who never cross one of our toll bridges, for example those who live and work in Providence, to have to pay higher taxes or transportation fees to finance bridge maintenance if there were no tolls? Our hybrid system of bridge maintenance financing seems inherently unfair and highly illogical. The fair and logical way to finance highway and bridge maintenance is to either finance it all through tolls or all through taxes and transportation fees. The former would result in tolls on most highways and bridges, while the latter would result in everyone paying higher taxes and fees. Either way, we would all share in the maintenance burden equally.
WHAT QUALIFIES AS A “CRIMINAL ORGANIZATION”? Exactly how long can an organization tolerate, perhaps promote, criminal activity before it is known as a criminal organization? The National Education Association of Rhode Island (NEARI) has experienced far more episodes of criminal activity in the past couple of years than should be expected of an organization that represents over half the hard-working, law-abiding teachers in our state. John Leidecker, NEARI’s assistant executive director, was convicted of criminally cyberstalking a state representative. NEARI’s secretary, Louis Rainone, was arrested for assault and disorderly conduct for punching a man at an East Greenwich restaurant. Rainone was also accused of issuing a physical threat to State Representative Jon Brien and both union “leaders” were accused of harassing former Cranston mayor, Steve Laffey.
What’s truly unbelievable about the conduct of these union bosses is that their boss, NEARI Executive Director Robert Walsh, apparently thinks their actions were laudable. He promoted Leidecker to his current position after his cyberstalking arrest and awarded Rainnone the distinction of “Education Support Professional of the Year” just a few months ago.
Maybe what qualifies a group as a “criminal organization” is when the top dog either tolerates or promotes criminal behavior by his subordinates.
LEADERS VACILLATING ON VOTER ID LAW: The leaders who championed the successful voter ID law in 2011, including House Speaker Gordon Fox and Secretary of State Ralph Mollis, are now backtracking and support a new bill that would freeze the phase-in of photo IDs. In the 2012 election, photo IDs were not required. Non-photo ID, such as Social Security cards or government medical cards, were accepted - IDs that can easily be passed from voter to fraudulent substitute. The 2011 law intended for photo IDs to be required in 2014 and beyond. Fox and Mollis need to listen to legislators, especially minority legislators, who think the photo ID requirement should remain. Fears that the photo ID requirement will keep minority voters away from the polls are unfounded. Providence Representative Anastasia Williams, an African-American supporter of photo IDs, said: “The claims that are out there that it’s going to disenfranchise people of color and minorities...it’s just not true.”
OBAMA CAMPAIGNING UNBECOMING FOR A PRESIDENT: President Obama campaigned in Massachusetts last week on behalf of U.S. Senate candidate Ed Markey. It seems unbecoming for a “president of all the people” to interrupt the country’s business to hit the campaign trail on behalf of a specific candidate or political party. Not only does such campaigning waste millions of American tax dollars as we pay for Air Force One and all the extra security trappings that go along with presidential travel, it tells half the American people (those of the opposite political party) that the president is not really “their president”. Once elected, the president of our country should become apolitical concerning other elections. Congress should refuse to fund any of the president’s expenses, to include his travel, his security, his salary, and the cost of running the White House during those days when he is off conducting partisan business on behalf of his political party.
HONESTY ABOUT COST OF IMMIGRATION REFORM: Robert Rector, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, reporting on an in-depth analysis of the cost of immigration reform conducted by the Heritage Foundation, produced solid evidence that the cost to taxpayers will be about $6.3 trillion - far, far more than the government tells us. Why and how? First, college graduates, on average, pay far more in taxes over their lifetimes than they receive in government benefits. Those without a high school diploma, on average, receive over their lifetimes about four times more in government benefits than they pay in taxes. So the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants who will eventually have legal status as Americans if immigration reform passes Congress will pay $3.1 trillion in taxes through the remainder of their lives but will receive about $9.4 trillion in government benefits. The difference of $6.3 trillion must be made up by the taxes of Americans who were born or naturalized as American citizens.
Our nation needs to pass immigration reform that will result in eventual legal status for those who slipped into our country illegally. 11 million are just too many to try to deport. Many have made lives here and are raising children born in the U.S. As a nation that has always welcomed immigrants, we should do likewise with these immigrants once the border is secured and other requirements have been met. However, our government needs to be honest with the American people about the cost of immigration reform.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: John Kass, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune - President Obama’s hometown newspaper: “We gave up freedom after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. President George W. Bush and Congress ceded it away. We were afraid and we gave it up. And President Big Brother, who campaigned against these Bush policies, has taken it to another level without much dissent from his adoring media.”