More liberal figures, such as Robert Walsh, executive director of the National Education Association Rhode Island, maintains that Rhode Island will never compete with the low-tax South, and that the state’s marginally higher regional tax climate doesn’t really affect decisions of whether people reside or leave here. “If the chamber wants to have a real conversation about targeting tax credits,” to specific economic goals, he says, “I’m all for having that conversation.”

Walsh believes the state should capitalize on existing state assets — by selling 10 percent of the Lottery, for example, for an in-lieu-of-cash payment to the state pension system — to get through the current budget crisis with less duress.

In moving forward, Carcieri, he says, should enlist every college president in the state to identify every alumnus who might be able to help with economic development and other needs. “I think the bully pulpit of the governor’s office can be an incredibly powerful thing,” Walsh says. “I don’t think that resource has been fully utilized.”

Meanwhile, URI’s Lardaro says the good news about the ongoing budget crisis is how it will force Rhode Island to become more fiscally disciplined as a state.

Ultimately, however, Rhode Island has passed the point where it can solve its own problems, the professor says. Because of what he calls the state’s “paro-pic” (parochial and myopic) leadership, an independent outside firm is needed, Lardaro says, to make a critical evaluation of the state’s economic prospects.

It’s up to Rhode Island to prove him wrong.

To read Ian Donnis’s politics + media blog, go to thephoenix.com/notfornothing. He can be reached atidonnis@phx.com.

 

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