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.