Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee has rejected the notion that the R.I. Economic Development Corporation needs a major overhaul – despite commissioning the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council to produce a report based on just that premise. But the legislature does not need to approach the issue so cavalierly when it begins its 2013 session.
Good starting points are the RIPEC report as well as the independently produced report by Gary S. Sasse and Marcel A. Valois, among others.
Both studies recognized that the state does not currently have any credible economic research function to help it understand which programs work and which don’t, leaving both legislators and bureaucrats without the necessary information to devise effective tax and spend policies, or economic-incentive programs to drive the state forward.
For instance, legislative leaders are asking for better information in order to take action on the state’s current lineup of tax credits and expenditures in the coming session. And by all means, that should be a priority, through the creation of an independent research institute, perhaps funded by the public and private sectors and headquartered in an academic setting.
But Gov. Chafee has had ample time to set up just such a research function. In fact, in August 2010, then-EDC Executive Director Keith W. Stokes proposed creating a research/strategy and policy-development wing in the agency to track and analyze how well EDC programs were performing. More than two years later, the state is still running blind when it comes to its economic-development efforts. Isn’t it time the state’s chief executive made something happen on this front? •