Rhode Island governor orders state government 12-day shutdown

| 8/25/2009

State workers in Rhode Island could be getting several more days off from work in the next year, but it’s no vacation.

Gov. Don Carcieri announced his plan Monday, Aug. 24, to shut down state government for 12 days in order to help come up with the nearly $68 million needed to balance the budget. He’s also interested in trimming funding for local governments.

Nonessential state employees would stay home for a dozen days through July 2010 without pay to help Rhode Island cope with surging unemployment and plunging tax revenue. The closures would affect more than three-quarters of the roughly 13,550-member state work force. The Department of Motor Vehicles would be included.

“I am asking everyone’s patience, understanding, and awareness that these steps are unavoidable if the state is to live within its means,” Carcieri said in a statement.

The Democratic-led General Assembly mandated the cost-trimming in a $7.8 billion budget approved in June. Their plan didn’t specify how the majority of the $67.8 million in savings would be met. Carcieri, a Republican, was critical of the plan but signed the budget.

Critical workers such as the Rhode Island State Police and prison guards still would report to work on shutdown days.

In addition to shutting down state government, Carcieri is calling on lawmakers to grant him authority to cut spending approved in the budget. If the General Assembly goes along with the governor, local governments would lose $32.5 million.

Lawmakers will need to sign off on enabling the governor to act on his spending plan when they return to complete their work for the year next week. Carcieri says his first use of that authority would be to withhold the fourth-quarter vehicle excise tax from cities and towns.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Rhode Island in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.