Doubling Down on Special Interests

While most Rhode Islanders slept, last night, the General Assembly’s House Finance Committee received, made public, and recommended for passage a slightly revised version of Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s proposed budget.  The technical documents are not available, yet.  (House staff, having arrived home well after last call at your typical pub, have understandably been permitted to sleep in a little.)  But news reports have given some details, and the people of the state will have all of seven days to digest the budget and tell their representatives their opinions… which most legislators will then disregard in favor of instructions from House and Senate leaders when the budget hits the chamber floors next week.

That isn’t really what one might call “representative democracy.”

Just so, Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (D, Cranston) offered the defining comment on the budget, last night:

Asked where legislative budget-writers found the revenue for all of these election-year tax cuts, Mattiello said “We had a little bump” in the last official forecast in May “and we are able to move money around.”

The cuts include:

  • A laughable reduction of the minimum corporate tax that Rhode Islanders must pay for the privilege of owning a corporate name, whether they do nothing with it or even lose money, from $450 to $400.  (With this minimum, the money isn’t so much the harm as the insult of the premise, which the General Assembly still can’t let go.)
  • Preferential tax treatment for the income of senior citizens (who tend to vote in greater proportions, you might have heard).
  • A return of beach parking fees to the pre-Chafee rate.

To give some specifics to Mattiello’s comment, refer to the May revenue estimating conference report.  The state is expecting $46 million more in broad-based taxes for the next fiscal year.  So all of these lauded tax cuts are essentially the conversion of new broad-based tax collections into special-interest handouts.

When the government gets this cute and targeted about cuts, there really is no difference between cutting taxes and giving out grants to favored groups.

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