Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), July 2016: Ocean State Up a Step (For Now)

The notable development with the July Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) is that Rhode Island edged past New York to claim the rank of 47 out of 50 states in the nation. Eight of 13 datapoints were new this month. The Ocean State even managed to narrow its gap with the New England and U.S. averages slightly. Although, the state remained in last place in the region by a significant margin.

All updated metrics improved for Rhode Island. Employment was up 1,428 from the previously recorded number, labor force up 1,721, and RI-based jobs up 2,500. (Note that employment numbers are subject to heavy revision.) Medicaid enrollment decreased by 2,129, while TANF decreased by 805. Also updated, this month, were the alternative measures of unemployment calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, now covering the second quarter of 2016. Long-term unemployment was down 1,200, marginally attached Rhode Islanders down 700, and people involuntarily part-time employed (rather than full time) decreased 2,400.

The first chart shows the six New England states in the national race. Rhode Island was the only state to see an increase in actual overall JOI score, although New Hampshire did advance to 3rd place in the country, as North Dakota slipped. Connecticut fell three spaces, to 36th, but Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts held their spots at 17th, 19th, and 37th, respectively.

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The second chart shows the gap between Rhode Island and New England and the United States. By contrast, Rhode Island’s gap increased on unemployment rate, holding steady while the New England and U.S. rates dropped a little (third chart).

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Results for the three underlying JOI factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (measuring optimism that adequate work is available): RI moved forward five slots to 38th place.
  • Freedom Factor (measuring the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI remained at 39th.
  • Prosperity Factor (measuring the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI still ranks 46th, with no data points updated.
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Scorecard of Lawmakers’ 38 Studios Voting Record Since 2010

Despite johnny-come-lately calls from many lawmakers for the release of documents from the government’s 38 Studios Investigation, 81 of the 113 sitting General Assembly lawmakers graded an “F” on their related voting records. This according to a special edition 38 Studios Legislator Scorecard published today by the  nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, which documented and scored legislative votes on 15 related bills, amendments, and budgets since 2010.

“The public is outraged that there has been zero accountability on this issue,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “Where the state government has failed to provide any transparency by releasing the 38 Studios documents, our Center is offering its own version of transparency by publishing this scorecard.”

While most 38 Studios votes have occurred in the House, and while many lawmakers have not served long enough to vote on all related bills over the 7-session period, each of the 178 Representatives and Senators who made a 38 Studios specific vote or who voted on a budget that included a 38 Studios bond payment was rated on the scorecard.

THE 19 WORST: With an opportunity to score between (-29) and +29, the worst pro 38 Studios/anti-taxpayer offenders among those with maximum opportunity to vote on such bills, were Representatives Corvese, DeSimone, Diaz, Edwards, Fellela, Handy, Jacquard, Kennedy, Malik, Mattiello, McNamara, Melo, Naughton, Ruggiero, Serpa, Slater, Ucci, Williams, and Winfield – each of whom graded an “F” and scored a negative (-25) or (-24).

THE 3 BEST: With a similar opportunity to score between (-26) and +26, the best anti 38 Studios/pro taxpayer advocates were Representatives Chippendale, Giarusso, and Morgan – each of whom graded an “A+” and scored a positive +24.

Overall, of the 178 lawmakers, 132 graded an F, 10 a D, 8 a C, 6 a B, and 14 an A. Five Senators did register a score, but did not receive a letter grade, because they took no specific 38 Studio related vote, even if they voted on one or more related state budgets or were absent for the initial loan guarantee program vote. Similarly, three 2010 Representatives did not receive a grade, as their only score was based on a single bill that they were not present to vote on.

“Many people might consider it extremely hypocritical for any lawmaker who rated an F or D on this scorecard for their past record to now jump on the band-wagon by calling for the Attorney General or Governor to release the documents,” suggested Stenhouse. “As we approach the November elections, we’re providing voters with the voting records of their elected officials so they can decide whether or not to hold them accountable.”

The full 38 Studios scorecard for all lawmwakers, the scoring and grading methodology, a description of the bills in question, and the bill-by-bill voting record can be reviewed by clicking here.

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Who Voted FOR & AGAINST A 38 Studios Special Investigation

At their July 29, 2016 press conference, the RI Attorney General and the State Police did not release the names of those officials who may have acted in an unethical political manner in the 38 Studios debacle, nor did they release related documents.

Now, many politicians are calling for the release of the documents. Yet, just six weeks earlier, many of these same lawmakers VOTED AGAINST legislation to initiate a special independent 38 Studios investigation.

On June 15, 2016, Representative Patricia Morgan (R-Coventry, West Warwick) submitted the following amendment to the RI state budget in order to fund a special prosecutor. You can see below who voted FOR or AGAINST finding the truth about the 38 Studios scandal:

 

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The Corrupt 38 Studios Story: Center Renews Call For An Independent Investigation


What the hell is going on in our state? As Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have been claiming for a long time, the system is rigged.

In a lawsuit just this week, the RI OAG was petitioned to release documents they have been hiding related to their collusion to shut down national climate change debate … and now today we find out that he has created a legal shield to hide the identity of those involved in the 38 Studios debacle.

After a 4 year investigation, the public knows nothing more about the corrupt 38 Studios story. For years it has been the position of the Center that the political implications were equally, if not MORE IMPORTANT than any potential criminal implications.

It is an outrageous turn of events that the rigged system that favors insiders will not release the names of those officials who acted in an unethical political manner.

Even though there are no criminal charges, this does not give the ruling elite the right to cover-up the identity of those officials who knew ahead of time, and deny the public their right to hold them politically accountable.

Today, as the many good government groups called for a year ago, I renew our call for the Governor to make good on her campaign promise to initiate an independent investigation .. not with a criminal objective, but with a political ethics objective.

With the new House Oversight chair also doing the bidding of political insiders in stating that she will not further pursue the 38 Studios charges, the public has the right to know the full 38 Studios story.

Look what happened to Rep. Carnevale when his residency lies were exposed. Those who lied to the Rhode Island people and to lawmakers in 2010 similarly need to be held accountable.

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), June 2016: Movement in the New England Neighborhood

For the June Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), nine out of 13 datapoints had new numbers, leading to some more-significant changes than usual… although not in Rhode Island, which remains stagnant. Even where the Ocean State’s underlying results were positive, its position relative to the rest of the country worsened, leaving no change in its rankings, including its 48th overall position. For comparison, the state’s unemployment rate slipped one rank, to 37th.

The three monthly employment datapoints saw improvement, with employment up 369, labor force up 791, and RI-based jobs up 1,700. However, these still appear to be oscillating around stagnation. Medicaid enrollment increased by 2,043 from the prior period, while SNAP decreased by 794 and TANF by 677. Rhode Islanders’ personal income increased $751 million in the first quarter of 2016 over the prior quarter, but state and local taxes increased $61 million over the same period, representing an increase in the percentage of income absorbed by government.

The first chart shows the six New England states in the national race. Maine and Vermont both managed increases in overall JOI score, with a reduction in state and local taxes moving Maine to the second slot in New England, or 17th place nationally, to Vermont’s 19th. New Hampshire slipped to 4th place nationally on the strength of an increase in state and local taxes (which may have been a change in property tax reporting more than actual collections). Connecticut moved up to 33rd, and Massachusetts stayed in its slot at 37th.

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Overall, the gap between Rhode Island’s JOI score and the New England and national averages decreased in June. When it comes to the unemployment rate, Rhode Island gained ground with both (third chart).

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Results for the three underlying JOI factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (measuring optimism adequate work is available): RI remained at 43rd.
  • Freedom Factor (measuring the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI still ranks 39th.
  • Prosperity Factor (measuring the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI still ranks 46th.

[Click here for a printable PDF, with a table of all states’ results.]

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RI Foundation Video Seeks to Stifle Your Free Speech

Should Rhode Islanders silently accept the corrupt political climate that has failed so many of us? Or should we, as free citizens in our uniquely American democracy, be encouraged to freely speak-out and engage in a battle of ideas so as to help make our state a safer and more prosperous place to live, to raise a family, and to build a career?

It is the Center’s primary mission to stimulate such rigorous public debate about important policy issues. However, the most powerful and wealthy nonprofit organization in our state is asking you to shut up.

As part of its own 100th year celebration, the Rhode Island Foundation this week published and promoted a video, which, in essence, encourages people to remain silent and to accept that the political elite know best about what’s in your and my best interests.

In what initially seems to be a video for kids, it is shameful that the Foundation hides its adult message behind children. With the frequent backdrop of our State House, it is obvious that the video is intended to be political. Under the pretense of “be nice or be quiet”, the Foundation is clear in its message that is directed to all of us –  that we should just “stop complaining”.

Stop complaining about Rhode Island’s 48th place ranking on the national Family Prosperity Index?
Stop complaining that so many of our neighbors cannot find or have given up looking for meaningful work?
Stop complaining about the political corruption that continues to embarrass our state?
Stop complaining about the lack of bold and decisive action to do anything significant about it? 

I don’t think so.

It is also despicable that the Foundation forces these children to read text that has to be bleeped. It is further immoral that the Foundation seeks to subvert the voice of the people in their implied endorsement of the status quo politics in Rhode Island.

In recent years, the RI Foundation has turned its attention towards public policy, where it has been a supporter of multiple far-left, government-centric and federal intrusions into the affairs of Ocean Staters. The Foundation has been a frequent and close public partner with the Chafee and Raimondo administrations. It was a major supporter of the controversial RhodeMap RI agenda and it largely funded the related Brookings Institution report that recommended massive crony-corporate subsidies.

When I challenged the Foundation to a debate in 2014 about RhodeMap RI, they refused. When they rolled out the Brookings report earlier this year, they – in close coordination with the Governor – did not even allow time for public review and debate before it was rubber-stamped by a bureaucratic planning board. Now, they use children to ask us to be silent.

How can such a high-profile organization, that admittedly has done so much good in so many other noble areas of private charity, be so opposed to public debate? Oh yes, I forgot: They and other elites know what’s best for you, me, and our families. And we’re supposed to just shut-up and behave so that their special interest friends can keep getting our hard-earned taxpayer dollars handed over to them? Again, I don’t think so.

More than anytime than I can remember, our state government – aided by partners like the RI Foundation – is operating under a dark-cloud of secrecy and is purposely seeking to bypass traditional democratic processes to manipulate its agenda into implementation.

It is your right, and if I may – it is your duty, as an American to remain vigilant and to make your voice be heard – in a strong, yet peaceful manner – against such corruption.

It is immoral – and it is dangerous – when government and its powerful corporate allies seek to compel your silence.

It is more important than ever that our Center should stand firm against such oppressive thinking. We just celebrated America’s Independence Day and now it’s time for you and I to respond as free and independent citizens.

Do so by spreading the word about the RI Foundation’s sneak-attack on free-speech through whatever free-speech vehicles you can … and by considering a donation to our Center in support of our mission.

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), May 2016: A Down Month in a Stagnant Trend

With Rhode Island losing both employment and labor force, in May, the state slipped to 36th in the nation for unemployment. On the broader Jobs & Opportunity (JOI) ranking, Rhode Island’s rank remained unchanged at 48 among states, despite lower scores on the two subfactors for which new data was available (five of its 13 datapoints).

On the three monthly employment datapoints, the decreases were signficant, especially using the originally reported, unrevised numbers for the prior month. Rhode Islanders reporting that they are working dropped by 533, while those working or looking for work dropped by 359. Meanwhile, the number of jobs based the state fell 2,400. The two welfare-related datapoints, were mixed (partly because they have different lags in terms of reporting months). Reliance on Medicaid increased by 2,281 people, while reliance on SNAP (food stamps) fell by 208.

The first chart shows the six New England states in the national race. All six experienced a loss of points on the JOI score, but Maine managed to move up to 21st place, as Oklahoma slipped. Connecticut held at 34, as did Vermont, at 20. New Hampshire kept its place at the lead of the nation, although Wyoming gained slightly, and Massachusetts is stuck at 37.

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Overall, the gap between Rhode Island’s JOI score and the New England average grew in April (see the second chart). When it comes to the unemployment rate, Rhode Island lost ground within New England but gained nationally (third chart), illustrating the problem with using that common metric as an indicator of economic health.

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Results for the three underlying JOI factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (measuring optimism adequate work is available): RI remained at 43rd.
  • Freedom Factor (measuring the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI still ranks 39th, although with a lower score.
  • Prosperity Factor (measuring the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI still ranks 46th, because no underlying data has been updated.

[Click here for a printable PDF.]

Renewable Energy in Rhode Island: Big Cost, Little Difference

RI-CoastlineThe RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has occasionally weighed in over the years on the energy and related regulatory issues facing Rhode Island, finding that “green” policies cost Rhode Islanders both their wealth and their jobs. Already suffering from one of the worst business climates and Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) ratings in the nation, Ocean State families and businesses cannot afford further increases in energy costs or losses in job opportunities.

Click here for the full RI report.

Yet, as the list of legislation at the end of this document shows, Rhode Island lawmakers are poised to make a deteriorated situation even worse.

Existing renewable portfolio energy standards (RPS), combined with an aggressive 2016 energy policy, will take even more taxpayer and ratepayer dollars out of the general economy in order to fund a special interest climate agenda and result in higher energy costs and a negative drag on the state’s economy. As this document shows, the harm done by these costs will all be in the name of a very low-impact, inefficient policy.

Based on this study’s findings, the Center strongly recommends that lawmakers reject all proposed new energy mandates in 2016 and, instead, repeal those that are currently written into law.

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Findings

Because of its high dependence on electricity generation via natural gas production (98% of in-state generation), Rhode Island can boast a relatively low carbon footprint. However, to increase its renewable energy portfolio from its current level to its RPS-mandated target of 14.5% by 2019, for only a slight improvement, a massive influx of taxpayer and ratepayer dollars will be required, leading to higher electricity prices and a net loss of jobs.

Rhode Island, despite its ocean proximity, is rated as having a low capacity utilization factor for wind and solar. This means it could be very difficult — and costly — to reach its 14.5% target over the next three years.

Exacerbating this condition, “renewable” energy is considerably more expensive to produce than “fossil fuel” energy, meaning that an increase in the renewable portion of the state’s energy portfolio necessarily means an increase in electricity costs. Rhode Islanders are well aware of this phenomenon with the controversial Deepwater Wind project, which alone is expected to cost ratepayers upwards of $440 million dollars over its first 20 years.

Overall, the high cost of complying with existing state RPS mandates, combined with the low benefit of a minor reduction of our carbon footprint, should lead reasonable lawmakers to conclude that this so-called “investment” does not present a good value for Rhode Island.

Because of this poor cost-benefit “value proposition,” up to five times less than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)–suggested standard, Rhode Island should reconsider its existing energy policy approach. Given its highly unfavorable return on investment, the money targeted to meet its RPS goals could be better spent on sorely needed broad-based tax cuts that would benefit every Rhode Islander and actually spur economic growth.

By the numbers, national research by Dr. Timothy Considine comparing projects to a base case without energy mandates finds that if existing RPS capacity targets are to be met, Rhode Island will experience:

  • 4,401–6,068 lower employment levels, despite the few hundred energy jobs created
  • $141–190 million per year in total costs required to raise renewable production to targets through 2040
  • 49–73% as the range for the sustained increase in the cost of electricity from new solar and wind capacities
  • 13–18% as the sustained increase in actual electricity rates expected to be passed on
    to consumers
  • $670–893 million per year extracted from the economy in the form higher electricity rate payments by private sector businesses and families, with the “services” and “construction” industry sectors shouldering the largest burdens
  • $134–205 per ton as the projected cost of carbon dioxide emission reductions for Rhode Island, well beyond the $40–60 cost standard that the EPA itself recommends

The high costs of achieving small carbon dioxide emission reductions using RPS in Rhode Island prove that it is an inefficient means to address global climate change and represents a poor investment for state taxpayers and ratepayers. As in many other states, the costs of carbon reduction in the Ocean State are significantly higher than EPA standards, while the small stimulus from RPS investment is not large enough to offset the negative effects of higher electricity prices.

Click here for the full RI report.

Best & Worst Bills So Far 2016

The Center’s annual Freedom Index & Legislator Scorecard rates bills and ranks legislators based on how they vote on those bills (2012 to present). For 2016, the BEST & WORST bills already as of voted on and yet to be voted on are listed below. For more details about these bills, and all bills rated, visit our 2016 interactive LIVE index hereClick on the image below for a larger view.

Updated 6/13/16

Statement on RI Dep’t of Education Transgender Guidelines

Click link to read RIDE Transgender students guidance 6-7-16

June 6, 2016

Official Statement from the Center:

“While professing to protect students from bullying and to respect all students, the RI Department of Education (RIDE), via its June 2016 “guidance” document on transgender students, itself appears to have been bullied by the federal government; seeks to bully local school districts into conformity; and openly flaunts its disrespect of of other students.

In perpetuating a disturbing trend of ‘government by political correctness’, RIDE has succumbed to federal pressure and has adopted a one-size-fits-all position that may not be compatible with the morals held by many public school families. There may never be a more obvious reason to empower parents with additional choices to escape an increasingly politicized government school system that does not respect their personal values.

The repeated emphasis in the document on laws dealing with “discrimination” can only be seen as a heavy-handed threat to local school districts by elitist bureaucrats who believe they know what’s in our family’s best interests.

The open and blatant disrespect (page-9, paragraph-2) for the comfort level of the majority of students, in favor of the comfort of a tiny minority of students, along with the disdain for the rights of parents and the sanctity of the family (page-7, paragraph-2), is particularly alarming.

The Center maintains that no statewide or federal dictate can possibly satisfy the varying sentiments among Rhode Island’s diverse array of local communities.”