2015-06-18 / Opinion

The Budget Ax Falls on Tourism


In the world of state and municipal budgets, cuts in state funding for municipal programs are never good news. So our first reaction to news that the Rhode Island House had voted overwhelmingly to reduce state support for local tourism organizations was not something that made us jump out of our chairs with glee. Because Newport has long enjoyed the biggest state contribution to a local tourism agency, the budget ax for next year fell hardest here--$290,000.

Knowing of the difficult spending choices that faced Rhode Island lawmakers this year, we understand that hoping the Senate might reverse the House on this is, well, just wishful thinking. We understand that’s not how things work this late in a General Assembly session.

However, we are encouraged by the response of Evan Smith, president and CEO of Discover Newport, that not only promotes Newport but eight other East Bay communities as well.

We’re certain that Smith would like to have nearly $300,000 in state tourism aid restored. But he seems to have decided to make the best of things as they are. Rather than pouting publicly about the budget cuts, Smith chose to try for a positive spin on the bad news.

The good news, the Discover Newport leader maintained, was that the House-passed budget also restored $3.5 million in funding for the state’s tourism program that had lagged over many years as previous legislative sessions had pared the state’s tourism budget to just $480,000 this year.

Smith described that as a “huge victory” for tourism statewide and he pledged to support the state effort because, as he put it, “if we do this correctly it will be good for everyone.”

We certainly hope he is right about that. Just glance at the calendar. We’re in the second half of June now. Despite a difficult winter that saw numerous school closings because of snow and ice, we can finally see the last day of school approaching. And that’s significant because once school’s out, that brings summer tourists from near and far to Newport.

The next two months go a long way toward determining how successful Newport's tourism communications have been over the previous months. Restaurant owners and others whose attractions thrive here in the busy summer months surely hope that the job was well done for them.

We, of course, hope for the best. And we also hope that Smith’s optimism in the face of a 10 percent budget cut for next year is well warranted.

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