We warned you about RhodeMap RI.
While the Governor's proposed new statewide property tax has already inspired arguments among various constituent groups, there are much larger, more fundamental issues to be concerned about.
Disguised as a wealth tax, the "Taylor Swift tax", in reality, is an assault on private property rights and is an infringement on municipal sovereignty, all part of a national agenda. Sound familiar? Well it should, because this tax idea is right out of the RhodeMap RI playbook, and it was likely designed by a nationally prominent sustainable living, urban planning advocate.
The month before the Governor introduced this controversial new tax, a February 18 WPRI-12report confirmed that the Raimondo administration was bringing Brookings Institution scholar Bruce Katz to Rhode Island for private meetings and hinted that the state should find a role for him. Also in 2013, Raimondo, in conjunction with the RI Foundation, brought Katz, a prominent national expert on urban economic development, to the Ocean State. Mr. Katz also has a relationship with Grow Smart RI, the primary architect for RhodeMap RI.
As our Center informed the public during last fall's RhodeMap RI debate, the underlying philosophy of the sustainable living and urban planning movement is that suburban sprawl, manifested largely through development of single-family private properties, is an unsustainable and inequitable ailment in our world. In their view, such prime real-estate would be more beneficial to society if it were re-purposed for "common", "open space", or "high density" use, according to their vision.
The goal of these central-planners is to make it incrementally more unattractive to own private property by making it more expensive (via tax policy) and by limiting development rights (through regulatory policy). As politically unpopular as this would be at the local level, the strategy of the central-planners is to supersede the authority and ordinances of local town governments by creating new regional authorities and statewide laws, such as the Governor's.
This strategy is clearly represented in the language of the Governor's proposed tax scheme, which describes property ownership as a "privilege". It then takes the extraordinary step of taxing those properties, much like a SIN tax.
Home and property ownership is not a privilege, nor is it a sin ... it is a cornerstone of the American Dream, of our free-enterprise system, and the foundation of our constitutional rights. By demoting private property ownership to a mere privilege, sustainable living radicals can justify eventually restricting or removing that privilege.
Further, with the state now exerting control over property taxes, local governments will find themselves with diminished sovereignty to manage real-estate issues. Cities and towns will have less authority to ensure that they remain attractive to in- or out-of-state homeowners and landlords, which are vital to their local economies.
A March 17 Providence Journal article described even more of the rationale, via familiar 'sustainable' terms such as "fair share", property "deterioration", "stock of ... real estate". Translation - urban planning advocates, like Bruce Katz, believe it is not fair that some have the "privilege" to live in exclusive neighborhoods. Property deterioration, or blight, is a common rationale for governments to justify eminent domain seizures to increase the stock of available real estate for open space or high density developments.
Given the timing of Bruce Katz' visit and the familiar language, there is little doubt in my mind that this ill-founded state property tax concept was originally devised by Mr. Katz. If he were to assume a role in the Raimondo administration, Rhode Island would become the model test-tube state for the sustainable development movement. Last year saw RhodeMap RI's adoption; with Bruce Katz on board, RhodeMap RI will be on a fast-track for its implementation.
It's one thing if this tax plan was merely about the Taylor Swifts in Rhode Island. If so, the discussion would be about whether or not it drives real-estate investors to other states and whether your home might be taxed next.
It's a completely different and alarming matter if this tax is the first-step in a highly coordinated federal-state scheme to diminish municipal sovereignty and encroach on the property rights of Rhode Islanders ... a scheme like RhodeMap RI.
Mike Stenhouse is CEO for the nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, a nonprofit free-market think tank, and earned a BA in Economics from Harvard University.