Big Red Flag When Left & Right Agree: End RI’s Corporate Welfare


Gary Sasse, founding Director of the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant University, and Sam Bell, state Coordinator of R.I. Progressive Democrats, have written an op-ed correctly condemning Governor Raimondo’s brand of lazy (my word) and expensive (to the taxpayer) economic development, printed in yesterday’s Valley Breeze.

We think that the core of voter discontent in Rhode Island originates in the widespread belief that public policy is disproportionately benefiting the well-connected. The poster child for this is the emphasis that the governor and General Assembly place on corporate welfare.

Corporate welfare exists when tax dollars are used to finance preferential tax deals, loans, and direct cash subsidies to specific businesses.

One of the biggest initiatives of the governor and General Assembly was the massive expansion of the corporate welfare agency that did the 38 Studios deal. Rebranded the Commerce Corporation, the controversial agency now has the power to hand out millions of dollars per year in cash subsidies directly to corporations.

Well said. And disturbing.

Remarkably, on her ongoing listening tour, Governor Raimondo actually lists her expansion of these tax credits and subsidies, via the agency that implemented 38 Studios (formerly the RI EDC; now the RI Commerce Corp), as an achievement of her administration. Further, as Sasse and Bell note, the General Assembly is fully complicit in this highly undesirable expansion of state-sponsored corporate welfare as it approved these line items in the budget.

Last year, a taxpayer-subsidized baseball stadium proposed for Providence was killed by a loud, across-the-political-spectrum bronx cheer. Similarly, this bi-partisan/non-partisan denunciation by Sasse and Bell – who speak for many, many of us across the spectrum – of these programs should be a big red flag for both the Governor and the General Assembly that a serious re-assessment and sharp cutting back of these programs are in order.

  • stuckinRI

    Let the “sharp cutting back” commence in November, regardless of what the GA accomplishes (or more likely does NOT accomplish) this session.
    I haven’t voted for a local incumbent in a LOOOONG time and I’m not about to start now.
    Time for some SERIOUS change.

  • Mike Rollins

    The only thing that will get the attention of our Rhode Island “leadership” is making a point of voting out as many as many of them as is possible in November. In particular, both the Speaker of the Rhode Island House, and the Rhode Island Senate President MUST GO!!!!! Even Satan himself might actually be a far better vote than either of those two! When in doubt, vote them all out!!!

  • sfcpete

    The corrupt politicians of RI have done nothing other than line their pockets and fill their relative’s coffers at taxpayer expense. It s time to do away with the part time leaders by reducing the representatives and making the positions full time and force the representatives to resign from/give up control of any enterprise that generates income for them. There should also be MANDATORY jail time for any and all that steal from the State.

    • D. S. Crockett

      The so-called assembly should be legislated to meet only one-month per year so as to not pollute our State any further.

  • GaryM

    One area of corporate-welfare that does not seem to be slowing is the so-called “non-profit” housing developer. These projects are generally funded well beyond their actual cost. A high end private home with top of the line everything comes in at around $180 per sq ft.. Many of the affordable housing developments, even new construction, can come in at around $200 per sq foot. There are no granite counter tops, high end cabinets, flooring etc. Developers are skimming the corporate-welfare construction profits.

    And how do they turn a long term profit?

    The key is to layer on favorable corporate-welfare property tax rates subsidized by local taxpayers, and get places like RI housing to ensure a steady stream of highly subsidized renters, subsidized by the state and feds (i.e. most taxpayers).

    In the end, the developer and friends pocket the financial slush, thanks to a systemic housing corporate-welfare enterprise.