The Luxury of Harming Citizens
There could hardly be a better symbol for the errors — becoming ever more detrimental to the people of Rhode Island — in mindset of the General Assembly than Senator Dan Issa’s perennial bill to tax expensive clothing:
At some point, though, he said, “expensive clothing goes beyond being about filling a basic human need and becomes a luxury and I believe that luxury items, including luxury clothing items, should not be exempt from our state sales tax.”
This year, with the state facing a $450 million budget hole, may be the year the legislature passes a bill Senator Issa has introduced yearly for at least the last decade — a bill to impose a luxury tax on expensive clothing.
“I don’t mean to suggest that these aren’t important items, to some people,” said Senator Issa. “I just don’t think it is right for someone to drop $10,000 on a fur coat and be exempt from taxes on that item when there are people in our society who are scraping to put clothes on their kids’ backs and pay their heating bills at the same time.” …
Senator Issa said he believes enactment of his bill could generate as much as $1 million annually in sales tax revenue and correct what he thinks is a fairness issue — one that allows shoppers from nearby states to avoid their state’s luxury tax by shopping in Rhode Island.
“Most importantly, a million dollars is a figure that would have a significant impact on helping those in our state most in need.”
As it happens, this year, I face the prospect of scraping to put clothes on my kids’ backs, and as far as I’m concerned, the state of Rhode Island ought to engage in even more “unfair” practices that draw shoppers from neighboring states to our stores. Asserts the Senator, “this luxury clothing tax will not have a negative impact on the majority of Rhode Island citizens.” We could quibble about the “majority” term, but on the general implication, Issa is wrong.
The citizens selling “$600 pair[s] of shoes” and “$1,000 Armani suit[s]” will lose sales to stores in buyers’ home states — even sales to local well-to-dos, who will have a new reason to buy their luxury clothes in Massachusetts or Connecticut (not to mention New Hampshire). In turn, citizens who provide any goods or services to those who profit from luxury sales will lose their cup-fulls of the trickle.
It is becoming a dire necessity for Rhode Island’s “leaders” to learn that not everything that has an effect on citizens’ lives — every boon and every bane — follows from their relationship with the government. Indeed, on the whole, the government of the state of Rhode Island is their number 1 affliction.