It’s questionable whether the General Assembly will back some of the Emergency Campaign’s recommendations, such as freezing the car tax at the current rate, or closing a “corporate tax loophole” that allows multi-state corporations to “avoid paying their fair share of Rhode Island taxes.” The legislature, though, has historically restored gubernatorial cuts to human-service programs, and this year will likely be no different. Senator Stephen Alves (D-West Warwick), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, for example, says he expects the General Assembly to restore cuts in the RIte Care program and subsidies for childcare.
As the Phoenix was going to press, the Senate was poised to vote on its own tax proposal, and the chamber seemed disinclined to back the House plan. As Alves told me last week, “We’ve been out in front that we’re not in favor of that particular proposal. However, [as] with anything, we’re in the midst of negotiations with the House on the whole tax package and how it can be evenly distributed amongst all income brackets.”
In recent years, Carcieri and Fogarty have each backed efforts to take a more comprehensive look at Rhode Island’s tax policy. Fogarty says his first priority would be the property tax, asserting that reform in this area would do more to help the economy than spreading the benefits of tax cuts among a relative handful of Rhode Islanders.
For now, though, the big beast of property tax reform remains off the table, a situation due in part to its complexity and a concurrent lack of political will.
As Election Day creeps closer, cuts in the state income tax will likely continue to be debated, as both a step toward enhancing Rhode Island’s fiscal competitiveness and yet another giveaway, following Bush’s profligate practices, for the well-to-do.
Conditioning income tax cuts on a public benefit — such as creating jobs — could spark competition and even win support among liberals. For now, though, a certain double standard prevails: poor people receiving a government benefit, like welfare, are supposed to work or meet other requirements, yet for those who would receive state-sanctioned tax cuts, being rich is its own reward.
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