In terms of a variety of topics — including the airport, the state’s two seaports, a waterfront project in East Providence, the Interstate 195 relocation, and issues of open space and water policy — “No one is putting it all together,” he says.
(In a further reflection of the difficulty of making change, Costantino, who released a plan last December to consolidate the state’s five health and human service agencies, now leans toward devising an implementation proposal “for the next governor, hopefully with the assistance of the present administration.”)
To some, the legislature’s use of tens of millions in tobacco settlement money to plug a budget hole a few years ago remains emblematic of the General Assembly’s lack of long-term fiscal thinking. “Is it the best way to do a budget? Absolutely not,” concedes Costantino, “but we felt at the time that we didn’t have many choices.” Many other states did likewise, he says, and there were questions about whether the money would remain available in the future.
Meanwhile, the way in which the legislature’s Joint Committee on Economic Devel-opment recently grilled the Economic Development Corpo-ration’s Saul Kaplan — taking him to task for the state’s moribund economic growth, without considering the role played over time by the General Assembly — left some observers incredulous.
Is RI ready for the innovation economy?
The contemporary form of the Greenhouse Compact is the EDC’s Economic Growth Plan 2008.
The report, which cites a goal of creating higher wage job opportunities for all Rhode Islanders (who have an average wage of $38,700, compared with $42,400 nationally), emphasizes six strategies for creating “a 21st Century Innovation Economy”:
• Increasing the number of high-wage jobs in target sectors;
• Increasing the availability of growth capital to Rhode Island businesses;
• Increasing the availability of office and commercial space;
• Increasing the skills and experience of Rhode Island’s workforce;
• Increasing research activity and new company creation; and
• Decreasing the tax and regulatory burden facing Rhode Island businesses.
“Our goal is to create an economy that increases the number of Rhode Island jobs paying above the national average wage from 40 percent to 60 percent over the next 10 years, with measurable increases every year,” the report states. (As it stands, 55 percent of workers in Connecticut, and 58 percent in Massachusetts, earn more than the national average.) “The transition will create 79,000 new high-wage jobs, produce $2.5 billion in additional state income and $83 million in state income tax revenue in today’s dollars.”
Sounds good, but will it happen?
“We have to be very focused,” says Kaplan, who has led the EDC for the last two-and-a-half years. He calls the growth plan challenging, “but doable,” describing it as an effort to “lay out a clear vision of our economic future,” with defined goals, so that whoever succeeds Carcieri in 2011 will have a game plan already in progress.
In terms of specific steps, the 10-page report has some. For high-wage jobs, for instance, it says the EDC will make 5000 calls this year to companies in six target industry sectors: health and life sciences; financial services; information technology and digital media; marine trades and defense technology; advanced manufacturing and industrial products; and consumer products and design. The EDC also plans to launch a “regional attraction campaign” with the Rhode Island Commodores.