Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s budget proposal may only be the starting gun for the budget debate, as Ted Nesi refers to it, but it could also be the starting gun for another wave of productive Rhode Islanders to race out of state or a warning shot to dissuade others from coming here. I don’t think well-to-do politicians understand how frustrated people become when they see state government always searching for new ways to take their money.
Yet, as Patrick Anderson reports, the governor wants to expand the sales tax to a range of new goods and services — without lowering the rate, which used to be the conversation. Raimondo wants a new 10% “surcharge” on guns and ammunition, a new 40% tax on vaping products, a new fee on beverage crates, increases in hotel and cigarette taxes, as well as state beach and park and DMV fees, and new leverage for municipalities to tax non-profits’ property, with continued “scooping” of fees that were supposed to be used for specific purposes simply added to general spending, while the car-tax phaseout would be slowed down, mobile sports betting would be introduced, not to mention legalizing marijuana for the purpose of taxing it.
One isn’t sure whether to see the governor as a recklessly spending profligate or a moral puritan looking punish her subjects for their moral impurities.
However she may arrive at her positions, Governor Raimondo remains dedicated to an insider system in which independent action is discouraged while kneeling before the ruler is rewarded. She will throw free pre-K and college to the masses, and hundreds of millions more in giveaways to corporations that hire her friends in the labor union, but she tightens the screws on businesses in a way that will make it more difficult for the people who most need work to find jobs.
The governor would like to increase the cost of employing low-income Rhode Islanders by 10% by forcing any business with at least 300 employees to pay that much of their salaries to the state if they are enrolled in Medicaid. This comes after a decade during which the state shuffled Rhode Islanders into Medicaid by expanding eligibility and spending taxpayer dollars to advertise the program through the state’s health benefit exchange. To make matters worse, Raimondo wants to increase the minimum wage 6%, to $11.10.
This relentless, merciless quest to grow state government and crush independent activity sends a very clear signal to anybody who doesn’t want to depend on government: Get out and stay away.