RI Politics 101: Open with a Lie
Members of the General Assembly were setting up a lie even before their first meeting of the year (if you can call it that). From Sunday’s Providence Journal:
The legislature and the governor promise no tax increases. Legislative leaders repeat: “Everything [else] is on the table.” Interest groups fear the coming session will be “the worst in decades.” …
… “At this point, I am not in favor of increasing any taxes,” says Murphy. The governor and Montalbano agree.
Get out those dictionaries, kids, ’cause the rhetoric is going to require some editorial corrections to the definitions:
“For me the devil is in the details on any of those items,” said Costantino, who is reluctant to support “any deal that ultimately is a one-time revenue source.” He also worries about “protection of those assets.” A hike in bridge tolls is a better bet: “I know the residents of Aquidneck Island won’t be pleased, but again that’s something that we have to look at,” Murphy said.
Putting aside the fact that bridges are crumbling around the state and these dunderheads are looking to bridge tolls for general revenue, here’s Merriam-Webster on “toll”: “a tax or fee paid for some liberty or privilege.” Next:
Advocates for the poor have suggested the state raise its recently reduced capital gains tax and reverse the tax break provided the state’s highest wage earners through the adoption of a new flat tax, which will cost the state more than $30 million in tax revenue next year.
The first idea hasn’t gotten much traction among legislative leaders. “At this point I am not open to it, unless somebody convinces me otherwise,” says Murphy. But with respect to tinkering with the capital gains tax rate, Costantino said: “It’s the one area where we are better than Massachusetts… so I’d rather not comment on that at this time.”
Once again this year, the lawmakers are promising to take a closer look at millions of dollars in tax credits the General Assembly has bestowed on select businesses and industries and, in particular, the historic tax-credit program.
Followers of national politics will recognize the Democrats’ famed ploy: Removing tax breaks doesn’t count as an increase. I guess it just restores the natural order of the universe. And my favorite:
By mid-January, state leaders also hope to see the results of a study they commissioned of how much more the state’s 7-percent sales tax might yield if it were expanded into exempt areas such as financial services, high-priced clothing and entertainment. Their long-stated goal: to raise enough new money to reduce the rate.
Perhaps I’m not alone in thinking that increasing the amount of revenue that the state takes via taxes is a synonym for raising taxes, no matter the titular rate. It seems the only area in which the General Assembly is interested in increasing commerce as a means of increasing tax revenue (rather than increasing revenue from commerce already engaged) is gambling.
Given all of the “buts” that accompany solutions for actually spending less, Rhode Islanders should prepare themselves — perhaps by putting more of their paychecks aside in advance — for increased taxes, more gambling, less money to communities and schools, more criminals released from prison, quick-fix sales of state assets (such as the lottery), and little more than stern looks directed at illegal immigrants and social-services leeches.
It’s telling that the AFL-CIO’s George Nee refers to the Quonset-Davisville port as an asset that “we have.” By “we,” the beaten taxpayer may conclude, Mr. Nee means his union.
So which politicians should be the first thrown into the bay? Think of all the toll revenue that could be collected from the mob as it marches the legislature up the Newport Bridge.