It’s hard to know, only one sunrise removed, how 2012 will be remembered in Rhode Island. In so many ways, it seems it was a year defined by inaction.
Most notably, we watched as our $75 million investment in a baseball player’s ability to launch a video game company – not surprisingly – went south. The only actions we took toward reversing the recession was rejecting new ideas, neither tinkering with the tax code or the EDC. There were no big upsets in the election. The biggest policy change was the way the legislature dismantled oversight of all public education without a lot of rhyme or reason or even a clear path forward.
With that in mind, how about we make a resolution to get something done in 2013? Here are some ideas:
Let’s restructure our tax code soup to nuts. Everyone seems to agree something needs to be done here. Ideas range from, on the left, steep increases, to, on the right, eliminating sales taxes altogether. More moderate proposals exist too: Gov. Chafee has proposed lowering and broadening sales taxes. Rep. Maria Cimini suggests tying top income tax rate reductions to unemployment, to incentive job creation. Rep. Teresa Tanzi has called for examining existing tax breaks.
Let’s make national news for the way we debate marriage equality at the State House. Let’s have spirited rallies and protests; let’s debate the merits in an open, honest and transparent manner; let’s hear from all sides and respect our cultural and political differences.
Let’s become the first state in the northeast to legalize marijuana. There is across-the-board, bipartisan support for this and virtually no real opposition or drawbacks. Guaranteed, it would generate tens of millions of dollars in brand new revenue, reduce crime and and save state resources, make it harder for kids to get drugs and create jobs in a new, green industry that would compliment existing economic strengths. Meanwhile, one or two cops and drug counselors will testify that it would make their jobs a little bit harder.
I think everyone can agree that 2013 should also be the year we put pension reform politics in the past tense. Let’s come to a compromise that saves money, sustains the system and respects retiree rights. Let’s have Angel Taveras mediate the deal and move on already.
I think we can also agree that we’ve got a pretty good opportunity to have a big picture conversation about education policy. As we reset the boards that oversee public education, et’s talk about what we want to get out of our investment in it – happy workers, high test scores, enlightened minds, employable labor, economic engines? All of the above, right? We can do that!
We can do all of this, and make Rhode Island a way better place to live and do business in as a result.