$42 MILLION IN ADDED PERSONNEL COSTS ADDING TO DEFICIT
MUDDLED DATA AFTER EXTENDED ONE YEAR SEARCH IS “NOT TRANSPARENCY” RHODE ISLANDERS DESERVE
Providence, RI - The State of Rhode Island has been dealing with projected budget deficits for a number of years. To study practices that may be adding to the problem, House Republican Leader, Representative Patricia Morgan: District 26, West Warwick, Coventry and Warwick, requested information about new hires by the Raimondo administration since her inauguration. That request was made one year ago.
“I was troubled by both the reported number and salaries of hires made by Governor Raimondo,” stated Representative Morgan.” There seemed to be weekly reports of new hires, new positions, and a shifting of employees from one department to another. Six figure salaries appeared commonplace. I was concerned about the impact on our state budget.”
The state budget has grown rapidly in the years that Raimondo has been Governor. In fact, at $9.2 billion, the enacted 2018 budget is a billion dollars higher than the Fiscal Year 2014 budget of $8.21 billion. This represents a 12% increase. Personnel costs in FY 2014 were $1.54 billion, compared to $1.70 billion in FY 2018, a 10% increase. “One billion in extra spending is having a negative effect on the wallets of everyday Rhode Islanders. It is critical that we squeeze value out of each dollar they give us.”
“Originally we were told to simply ask the Governor’s staff for the information; that Access to Public Records Act requests would not be necessary. Repeatedly, we were asked for patience. Finally, after several months, we were forced to file an Open Records request. The data arrived in a form that made any reasonable analysis impossible,” she explained.
“We refined our request, resubmitted it and again received the information in an incomprehensible and incomplete list.” Morgan continued. “This cat and mouse game continued through most of the year. This is data any competent manager should readily have. At this time, we feel we have a satisfactory picture of the hiring that has occurred. However, although it must have been clear to the Governor that we wanted to study growth of payroll and its effect on the budget, the data supplied continues to be muddled. This is not the transparency that we expect. It should never take a year to get garbled data on personnel costs. The fact that it has indicates, either incompetence or an unwillingness to be honest with taxpayers.”
“The State has forecasted sizeable deficits for a number of years. For this fiscal year, 2018, the state faces a $55 million deficit that remains unsolved, in addition to a now $180 million deficit for FY 2019. In total, we are facing $235 million in budget gaps over the next 18 months. We also learned from the Governor’s recommended budget that structural deficits are forecasted to grow each year in the future, from $87.1 million in Fiscal Year 2020 to an incredible $227 million in Fiscal Year 2023. Hiring, especially the creation of new positions and/or wage inflation, exacerbates the problem,” Morgan explained.
She continued: “Unfortunately, since taking office, Governor Raimondo has created 122 entirely new positions with an estimated price tag of over $7 million. And she isn’t stopping there. In her recommended budget, the Governor proposes hiring even more: $63 million and 266 more positions over the enacted 2018 budget. If our goal is to close these gaps, we must tighten our fiscal policy and the irresponsible spending must stop.”
“After taking into account the three negotiated 2% annual raises and increased health insurance costs, the data indicates that payroll has still increased by $42.4 million between Fiscal Year 2014 and Fiscal Year 2018. Combined, new hires and salary inflation account for an 11% surge in spending on payroll. Obviously, this escalation also has an impact on the annual contribution taxpayers must make to health care and the pension plan. It is no wonder that the budget contains a yawning hole.”
“The taxpayers deserve prudent management of the money they supply our government. The proliferation of questionable new positions and liberal wage increases for replacement workers has strained their ability to pay. As we tackle the budget again this year, we call on the Governor to work to reduce not only the payroll, but the overall cost of government. Adding new positions and new non-essential programs as the state faces serious deficits is abusive to hardworking taxpayers who are already struggling with our high cost of living. This spending is reckless and harms their financial security.”