Here’s one of the more-worrying parts of Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s recent interview with the Providence Journal:
Raimondo said she is trying to come up with a permanent and steady revenue stream to address Rhode Island’s shortage of affordable housing and its homelessness problem.
“I don’t know where it will come from. I have a $200-million hole. But everyone who is an expert in this area tells me: If you are serious about housing, you need a steady funding stream …. So if we can find a way to do it, I’d like to do it.”
“I just have to find some money,” she said. “It could come from anywhere. It could come from an income tax. It could come from a sales tax. It could come from a fee.”
Put aside the laugh-line that experts in the field say the field needs its own dedicated money. This sounds like the same rationale as the controversial truck tolls. It is as if Governor Raimondo came into office knowing the state was already over taxed and so — being unwilling to reduce the overall burden of government — she decided early on that the only solution would be finding new ways to take people’s money away.
What this really reminds me of, however, is the “permanent and steady revenue stream” some in state government attempted to secure for the non-profit RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence. For a few years, legislators tried to get that organization $300,000 through a new, $46 fee on marriage licenses.
Of course, that was terrible policy, but it was offensive, too. We should want people to get married, so taxing the action is just dumb. But then to implicitly link marriage with domestic violence? Only progressives could see that as natural. So, the state gave up and decided to fund this handout straight from the general fund.
What the governor tries to do in the upcoming legislative session will depend how much money her experts think they need. A few years ago, I traced the connections between various housing-related organizations and special-interest groups, and they are extensive, with a lot of overlap. If the money needed to make that network flush is high, look for some sort of new statewide building permit fee or added stamp taxes. From experience, however, we should probably expect a more-limited tax on something the wealthy governor thinks she can vilify as a luxury.