While Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s decision to not seek a second term has simplified the politics of the upcoming race for the state’s top elective office, it does little to combat the continuing economic doldrums that Rhode Island finds itself mired in. To make a dent on that issue, Gov. Chafee needs to remain engaged in the state’s governance, as well as focused on handing over a business climate to his successor that does more to help than harm Ocean State enterprises.
Perhaps declaring now that he will be a one-term governor will focus him (and his staff) on making good within the next 16 months on what may be his most important legacy – simplifying, rationalizing and shrinking the regulatory regime that puts a chokehold on so many Rhode Island businesses. A year ago he made a big show of speeding up the General Assembly-mandated review of all the state’s regulations, but a recent progress report did not seem to embody the needed urgency to change the way the state conducts its business.
Of course, as important as it will be for the governor and his team to step up the tempo, they also will need to make sure he doesn’t become a lame-duck executive. Somehow he needs to infuse the legislature with that same sense of urgency to improve the state’s business climate. If either Gov. Chafee or the General Assembly is lulled by bureaucratic inertia into a sense of complacency waiting for his successor to complete what he has started, Rhode Island will be the big loser, no matter who the next governor is. •