A vivid picture of Rhode Island’s local aid roller-coaster

Here’s a chart that might give you some sympathy for your mayor or town manager the next time he complains about the General Assembly slashing local aid.

The graph was buried in the House Fiscal Advisory Staff’s report [pdf] on the finance committee’s 2011-12 budget. It shows the amount of aid lawmakers sent cities and towns each year starting in 1997-98:

Local aid topped out at more than $250 million in 2006-07 – the same year employment peaked – and then shrank rapidly, dwindling to about $66 million in the new fiscal year that started in July. That’s a drop of roughly 75%.

The first thing to go was the General Revenue Sharing Program, which ended in 2009-10. Then last year lawmakers stopped reimbursing cities and towns for most of their foregone car tax revenue (listed here as “Excise Tax Phase-Out”). That allotment dropped from $117 million in 2009-10 to $10 million in 2010-11. Local drivers are now making up much of the difference.

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