The Governor's proposed "Keep Going" FY2019 budget stands in stark contrast to the successful path to prosperity blazed by the federal government via tax and regulatory reductions in the past year.
"In perpetuating a stagnant economic status quo for Rhode Island, this budget includes a number of new revenue schemes, even while the Administration claims there are no broad based tax hikes," said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity. "Treading water simply is not good enough for a state that ranks in the bottom-10 in multiple broad, national indexes: business climate, Family Prosperity Index, Jobs & Opportunity Index, and in regulatory burdens."
Already spending significantly more per capita than its more prosperous neighboring states, the proposed budget irresponsibly proposes $135 million in new spending, including the planned hiring of hundreds of new government workers. The budget also seeks to extract significant new revenues from the public via a bevy of narrow tax and fee increases, such state sponsored sports gambling and increased marijuana usage, and "scoops" from other agencies. Additionally, the projected $41 million in new trucker toll receipts will inevitably lead to higher prices for grocery and other consumer products.
With a highly successful 180 degree opposite approach, and less than one month after becoming law, the recently enacted federal tax reforms prove that bold reductions in personal and corporate tax burdens, when combined with meaningful regulatory reforms, will lead to real and immediate economic growth. Further, as the nation has witnessed by the hundreds of companies that have recently announced employee bonuses and pay increases, such growth directly benefits workers at all levels.
The $350 billion investment plan announced by Apple this month, and the expected $38 billiomn in new federal taxes it will pay, clearly demonstrates - as the Center has consistently advocated, and as America also saw during with Reagan era tax cuts - that lower tax rates that spur economic growth can actually lead to increased revenue flows to the government.
"Sadly, per Amazon's announcement this, we find again that Rhode Island's political class was fooling itself into believing that our Ocean State was in the running for a new Amazon corporate campus," continued Stenhouse. "As we have maintained for years, until RI takes serious steps to improve our dismal business & educational climate, we will continue NOT to make Top-20 lists, and we will continue to hemorrhage from small business shutdowns and transplants to other states."
Instead of even more taxpayer money dedicated to fund crony corporate welfare handouts, this money could be used to fund broad-based tax cuts that can spur economic growth. If Rhode Island were to work towards a pro-growth, lower tax and regulatory business climate, there is no reason to believe our state could not share in the same dynamic economic growth that we are now seeing across America. With national jobless claims at 40 year lows, with record low African American unemployment, and with Hispanic unemployment also approaching historic lows, it is a win-win situation for Rhode Island to consider meaningful tax cuts and regulatory reforms.
As with last year's budget, the Center criticizes the ledgerdemain in the budget regarding the deceptive process referred to as "scooping." Scooping creates the appearance of more general state revenue receipts, by moving off-budget funding from specific state agencies or quasi-publics (e.g., $5 million from the Student Loan Authority) into the general fund. Over time, these agencies may seek to recoup lost funds by shifting the burden to municipal taxpayers or by other increased fees.
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