New House Speaker Gordon Fox is already fudging on making the hard choices he and fellow legislators on Smith Hill are facing. Fox has let it be known that two of the Governor's cost-cutting proposals aren't to his liking: one being an end to automatic annual 3% increases to the state's pensioners, and now a reluctance to hold back on the 4th qtr. auto exise tax refunds to RI cities and towns, as the Governor proposed.
Giving pensioners automatic 3% bumps in their pensions every year is not affordable nor justified based on the current low rate of inflation. Holding back on the state quarterly auto excise tax refunds to cities and towns is a bit more problematic, true, because those entities depend on that money flowing into their operating budgets. (Under threat of lawsuit the Carcieri administration coughed up the third quarter payments.) But RI has to start somewhere in cutting its spending, and statements like these from Fox appear to signal that he's not into making decisive changes.
But how can the General Assembly not pick up and act on some of the Governor's cost-cutting recommendations? The $220 million current operating deficit and the $400 million structural deficit for next fiscal year aren't going to disappear. Where does Fox think he's going to get the money?
Anyway, Fox is in a tough spot as the budget crisis is truly his to solve now. We wish him the best in making the right choices for the good of our state.