Despite the false hopes expressed by lawmakers based solely on a reduced unemployment rate, Rhode Island families are hurting. The Ocean State suffers under the worst business climate, and 48th rank on our Center’s Job’s & Opportunity Index. Furthermore, Rhode Island was the only state in New England to see its labor force decline in size in recent years, as hundreds of thousands of people have chosen to leave our state since 2004. This is not a recovery.
Below is a statement that StopTollsRI.com (for which I am spokesperson) placed on its Facebook page last night. The R.I. Trucking Association and the American Trucking Association have announced that they would wait until all 30+ toll gantries were installed before they would challenge the legality of truck tolls in court. This alarming development first came to light Thursday night in testimony before House Finance. See Mike Collins’ testimony starting at approximately minute 1:52:40.
Tolls have taken a dangerous turn for Rhode Island residents and taxpayers. It is now imperative that state legislators and General Assembly leadership step in for the good of the state and end the truck toll program.
Rhode Island politicians like to give lip service to making the state a hub for technology companies, but they seem to think that means encouraging interactions between groups that can only survive with government subsidies, mainly because of (and by means of) government’s imposition of high barriers to entry and costs of doing business. The secret to generating new industries in Rhode Island is to lower costs so all variety of businesses can afford experiment (without government approval, as expressed through the subsidies) and reduce restrictions on what they’re permitted to do.
RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity CEO Mike Stenhouse and Taxpayer Protection Alliance Senior Scholar Drew Johnson highlight a great example in today’s Providence Journal:
Fortunately, the free market recently developed a way to bypass the optometrists’ office. New technology — known as “ocular telemedicine” — allows consumers to accurately measure their prescription strength on a smartphone or computer screen from the comfort of their own homes. A board-certified ophthalmologist then emails a vision prescription based on the results.
Patients can then use that e-prescription to purchase lenses or glasses wherever they choose, typically at much lower prices. With this technology, healthy adults only need to visit a brick-and-mortar eye doctor once every two years for a full eye health exam (as recommended by the American Optometric Association) instead of every time a lens refill is needed.
Naturally, entrenched interests have pushed for legislation to halt (or at least slow down) such innovations, and of course, some Rhode Island legislators are answering the call… no doubt with entirely selfless reasons. It’s funny how protecting people from themselves so often seems to profit somebody else, at least when it comes to regulations.
Can we stop that sort of behavior, please? Why not just let people figure out how to provide other people what they want?
Mike Stenhouse tells Tara Granahan on 630AM/99.7FM that legislators shouldn’t hold Rhode Islanders prisoner to a budget number at the bottom of a spreadsheet.
Losing the PawSox seems mainly to be a worry of RI’s decision-making elites, but the best thing Rhode Island could do is to make it clear that it has decided to get back to basics and get itself onto a better path.
Should the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of Rhode Island families be limited by an arbitrary, politically-driven budget number at the bottom of a spreadsheet? Unfortunately, our state is now suffering the consequences of such an approach, fueled by the progressive-left’s big-spending agenda.
When I first read the proposed legislation (H5457) to require all parents of young adults seeking their drivers’ licenses to take a course, I wondered why Rhode Island’s politicians presume the authority to behave like parents to every adult in the state. One could imagine House Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi (D, Warwick) overhearing some parent giving a child bad driving advice and determining to solve that perceived problem by implementing a blanket mandate for all parents.
This detail in a related AP story, though, makes me wonder if the motivation might be a bit more politically crass than that:
AAA Northeast is backing the bill, which was introduced by Democratic House Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi. The legislation describes the organization as a possible course provider.
The legislation requires the course to be free to participants — treating their stolen time as without value — and doesn’t explicitly call for the state to pay providers. Indeed, it says that if nobody wants to provide the program, it will cease to be required. So, maybe there’s some payment from the state, or maybe AAA will only provide it to members (effectively forcing people to join), or maybe it’s a little more innocent and just an opportunity for AAA to give a sales pitch to a constant flow of captive audiences.
It’s the fact that AAA is “backing the bill” that raises my eyebrow. Is this something for which the organization has actively lobbied? Is it some sort of payback for, say, supporting RhodeWorks?
As I mentioned last year, I was a AAA member from the time I started driving (25 years ago, tomorrow). The organization’s active support for RhodeWorks led me to quit, and finding it in bed with Rhode Island insiders who take their power over us as a marketable good to trade for cash and favors affirms my decision.
One of the topics on my weekly call-in to the John DePetro Show, today, was the idea of Democrat House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s surveying his constituents regarding their views on various issues as the House moves into its annual race to do everything that’s important within a couple of months. No doubt, he’s got some sense of the responses he’ll get and (inasmuch as he’s keeping the results secret) will only release those data points that serve his political interests.
But still, let’s not let cynicism brush off what I would argue is an excellent development. I’ve confirmed with the speaker’s office that he used campaign funds for the survey. Imagine if every representative and senator used his or her campaign funds to survey constituents annually (at least) specifically on current issues of political debate. Then imagine if they made a practice of releasing the results and then working to justify, to their own constituents, any areas in which they voted inconsistently with their preferences.
Why, that might be something like representative democracy!
Of course, in this case and in Rhode Island, one can’t step away from the cynicism of noting that this survey of the speaker’s specific 10,000ish voter span in Cranston could be setting the policy terms for a state of around one million people. But even then, if an open process of surveying constituents were part of the culture of the State House, it would be immediately clear who was voting with their constituents and who was finding excuses to vote with legislative leadership.
As a bonus, this practice would give incumbents something to spend their campaign money on, maybe avoiding the trap of letting it build up into the tempting pots that have been tripping up Providence City Council members.
If I were of a progressive bent, I’d suggest passing a law to require legislators to use campaign funds in this way. Being reasonable (which is to say, being a conservative), I’d just suggest that it’s a good reason for all politicians to face political opposition every election, as Mattiello did last year.
And as a hint to potential candidates, it wouldn’t be a bad campaign pledge to make.
The massive budget shortfall is proof that the state government’s corporate welfare strategy has failed. Rhode Island’s current corporate tax-credit economic development strategy is highly inefficient as it creates relatively few jobs at an extremely high cost per job to taxpayers. This targeted ‘advanced industry’ approach does little if anything to improve the overall business climate, which is necessary if organic entrepreneurial growth is to occur on its own. A 3.0% sales tax would disproportionately help low-income families.
For my weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WADK 1540 AM show, the topics were the Democrats’ health care scare mongering and the early political campaigning of two Republicans.
Pondering why a young, still-new state representative from Rhode Island would have $128,000 sitting around in campaign donations, I thought I’d run his name through Rhode Island’s campaign finance search tool. Regunberg is reportedly considering a run for lieutenant governor, which anybody who watches Rhode Island politics knows is essentially a political holding spot by which to live off of taxpayers while gathering media attention in preparation for a more-significant office, a political appointment, or some sort of private-sector payoff.
That being the case, why has 51% (i.e., a majority) of Regunberg’s campaign cash, gathered since he started collecting it in 2014, come from beyond the borders of Rhode Island? The average Rhode Island donor has given him $273, while the average non-Rhode Island donor has given him $582. What are the donors hoping to get for their money?
For some comparison, consider Regunberg’s fellow legislator House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan, who has collected fully 94% of her campaign money from within the Ocean State. Moreover, Rhode Islanders have given her an average of $277, while non-Rhode Islanders have given her an average of $197. Alternately, look at Regunberg’s fellow Democrat, current Lieutenant Governor (and former Cumberland Mayor) Dan McKee. His in-state percentage for money is 85%, with RI donations averaging $261 and non-RI donations averaging $343.
There are two possibilities, with both probably playing a role:
- As we’re seeing with our current governor, out-of-state Regunberg donors may be interested in pushing their nationally focused agenda within Rhode Island, or
- they may see Rhode Island as one of the increasingly limited staging grounds for left-wing politicians.
In neither of those cases should we expect the well-being of Rhode Islanders as Rhode Islanders to be the top priority of the donor, and we can reasonably wonder how much weight Rhode Islanders’ well-being will have on the politician’s scales as he makes decisions when in office.
If the final federal healthcare law that eventually emerges from Washington, D.C. is similar to the version that passed the House of Representatives in early May of 2017, Rhode Island lawmakers will find themselves in the middle of largely reshaped federal and state healthcare landscape. Soon they may be faced with multiple important questions; and they will also realize that they will be newly empowered to make state-specific decisions for the people of Rhode Island.
In case you (especially my fellow tea-totallers) hadn’t heard: in 2013, RI removed the sales tax on wine and spirits.
Coincidentally, that was also the year, at the urging of then-Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed, the state removed the sales tax on art; more specifically, “original and limited edition works of art sold in the State of Rhode Island” were made exempt from state sales tax.
The human inclination to dictate and control comes back around in the United States
Students in Tiverton and elsewhere are having difficulty getting to school on time and parents are being made late for work because of a bus driver shortage, as Marcia Pobzeznik reports in the Newport Daily News. Here’s the bus company’s explanation:
The company has tried every way possible to attract potential drivers, [First Student Transportation General Manager Bill Roach] said. It has put up billboards at bus stops and advertised at movie theaters.
“We’ve gone to football games, local markets,” Roach said.
The efforts have succeeded in getting 56 candidates into the state’s 50-hour training program, he said. But it takes 20-30 days to get an appointment for a road test.
“It’s very discouraging. The road testing is the choke point,” Roach said.
There are just one full-time and two part-time road test agents for the entire state. They not only have to certify new drivers, but re-certify existing drivers, he said.
So, the state has set up an arduous regulatory regime for bus drivers. That is, the state has artificially restricted the number of bus drivers by requiring candidates to be approved (and reapproved and reapproved) by the state. And then the state doesn’t supply the road test agents (or some other system) to handle the demand for this mandatory service.
The state has to begin choosing its priorities, because from UHIP to the DMV to bus driver certification to infrastructure to everything, it isn’t accomplishing the basic tasks that it has set for itself. Of course, there’s money for crony capitalist tax breaks, flashy videos promoting the governor, vote-buying schemes by legislators, and disproportionate pay and benefits for union employees.
Given the tax burden throughout the state, money cannot be the issue. The issue is a government that claims for itself too much power and won’t use the bountiful resources it has to accomplish the tasks that it therefore must undertake.
Imagine the parking lots of Rhode Island retailers filled with cars with Massachusetts license plates. New research from the Center, based on government data, shows that it is very possible. In the two years following the removal of sales tax on wine and spirits, the same level of economic stimulus, as projected by the Center by cutting the state’s overall sales tax, actually occurred! Now, there can be no doubt of our findings. The new research one-pager proves that Rhode Island would experience an ECONOMIC BOOM under a 3.0% sales tax.
For my weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WADK 1540 AM show, the topics were Mattiello’s PawSox change of heart, NY “free tuition” and Raimondo, Gina’s change of heart on pot, and Whitehouse’s strange relationship with campaign money.
As taxpayers continue to be asked to fund generous corporate subsidy programs, lawmakers are now dueling over two new spending ideas, reimbursing localities to phase-out the car tax and public funding for free college tuition, each of which would likely further raise taxes and fees on Rhode Islanders. But would these programs make Rhode Island a better state? Not only does cutting the sales tax to 3.0% make sense for improving our state’s troubled economy, it is also the cure to the dangerous progressive agenda.
The four major PROGRESSIVE legislative initiatives that Rhode Island families and business owners should be worried about are:
Mandatory paid sick time would only exacerbate Rhode Island’s already heavily damaged business climate and ultimately rebound negatively onto job-seekers and the state’s already shriveled tax base.
Happy Easter! As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the creator of the American social safety net state said in 1935, “Continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit.” Rhode Island Lawmakers need to realize that our policy culture of considering only the material needs of individuals has, all along, been harmful to the family unit.
Yet, the progressive left is openly promoting job-killing, anti-business, and anti-family policies.
On behalf of all Rhode Islanders, thanks to Minority Leader Patricia Morgan for filing a bill to repeal RhodeWorks’ truck (wink) tolls. (See her statement after the jump.)
Governor Gina Raimondo asserted the need for tolls as a financial necessity to repair state bridges which were/are some of the worst in the country but, by golly, we just don’t have
the will to find the money in the state budget (even though it’s a MAJOR public safety issue, danger, danger, Will Robinson).
However, the governor has decisively rebutted her own assertions about the fiscal necessity of tolls, as StopTollsRI.com (disclosure: I act as their spokesperson) pointed out in a letter to the Providence Journal on Sunday, by proposing a brand new, $30M/year spending program.
“Free” college tuition is at best nice to have (and it certainly would not solve the state’s employee skills gap, as the governor claims). If there is money in the budget for an expensive nice-to-have item, then it is clear that there is money for a less expensive vital service such as bridge repairs.
Legislators can now vote to repeal tolls, secure in the knowledge that public safety did not necessitate the passage of this highly destructive new revenue stream and confident that the money can be found in the budget to repair the state’s unsafe bridges. The governor has helpfully done this hard work for them.
Rhode Island families understand that our quality of life can only be improved if more and better businesses create more and better jobs! Yet, the progressive-left has a very different vision. They are openly promoting job-killing, anti-business, and anti-family policies. Their so-called “fair shot agenda” would transform our Ocean State into a liberal utopia … where businesses face even higher legal and financial risks, and where worker safety, absenteeism, and workplace productivity are compromised.
The Ocean State faces a stark choice.
Despite the legalization of marijuana in 2014, Colorado’s revenue projections and budget deficit are going the wrong way. Rhode Island leaders and legislators need to take this unwelcome development carefully into account as they consider whether to follow Colorado down the path of legalization.
The role of government in: charity, innovation, waitressing, and grabbing parents off the street and locking them up.
Reading up on the matter of the Pawtucket Red Sox and their search for a better stadium, as well as on the new Rhode Island Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D, North Providence), something jumped out at me. Here’s Ethan Shorey reporting on Ruggerio’s elevation to president in The Valley Breeze:
Given the fact that Providence and North Providence have two of the highest car tax rates in the state, Ruggerio said one of his top priorities is reducing or eliminating the state’s car tax.
As we all know, the person who made elimination of the car tax a major issue this year was Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (D, Cranston), who — it needn’t be said — has a lot of influence over whether Ruggerio is able to move his own priorities.
Now here’s Patrick Anderson reporting in the Providence Journal on Ruggerio’s support for public funding of some sort of major project benefiting the PawSox:
Ruggerio said [Pawtucket Red Sox Chairman Larry] Lucchino did not present him with a specific request for state funds or identify a stadium site. He said those specifics are being negotiated with representatives of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s administration.
Doesn’t it seem like these multi-million-dollar matters are ultimately decided by a handful of politicians, each of whom has a self-interested agenda….
- Mattiello to make his House seat more secure
- Raimondo to pave the way for reelection and moving up in national politics
- Ruggerio for some other reason, perhaps benefiting the labor union for which he works
… and basically negotiating for those reasons how they should distribute other people’s money?
As taxpayers continue to be asked to fund generous corporate subsidy programs, lawmakers are now dueling over two new spending ideas, reimbursing localities to phase-out the car tax and public funding for free college tuition, each of which would likely further raise taxes and fees on Rhode Islanders. But would these programs make Rhode Island a better state? Or would the more innovative and bold policy concept of cutting the state sales tax help families become more self-sufficient?
Imagine Rhode Island as place where all of our state’s families could achieve their hopes and dreams. Sadly, there are many obstacles in the way of making this a reality. Here is a big one– the sales tax is a tax on business.
Elected officials in Rhode Island move forward without considering the possible effects, perhaps doing more harm than good as they take more and more of Rhode Islanders’ income away.
The Providence Journal and Rhode Island progressives are doing a disservice to the people of our state by advancing a biased and non-realistic perspective on the federal healthcare reform debate.
There are few issues that are more personal or important than planning for the care that can preserve the health of ourselves and our families. But what governmental approach best helps us accomplish this?
Currently, our state is following the federal Obamacare approach of seeking to insure more people with government-run Medicaid or with a one-size-fits-all government-mandated private insurance plan. This approach is in a death-spiral.
Continue reading at Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity.
It is time to change the status quo in Rhode Island. What if lawmakers were to realize the policy culture of considering only material needs has been harmful to our families? Instead, lawmakers should work to empower more families with the soul-fulfilling power of work by removing the obstacles that stand in their way. Rhode Island needs bold, broad-based reform ideas; ideas that will help existing and would-be businesses and families. One big idea is removing the heavy-hand of government occupational licensing restrictions on small businesses.