Business Tax via Sales Tax

An article in last week’s Sakonnet Times (not online) informs the reader that my representative in the State House, Jay Edwards, has submitted legislation reducing the sales tax:

“This legislation would stem the tide of consumers who leave Rhode Island to shop in Massachusetts just to save on the sales tax,” said Rep. Edwards. “We must start thinking of ways to make our state more competitive instead of accepting the status quo and allowing Massachusetts and Connecticut to reap the additional sales.”

The bill does not spread the tax to everything — as previous efforts have seemed to attempt — but there is some curious broadening, considering that the name of the game is competition. Taxes on computer software and floral business equipment are one thing, but adding a tax on the necessary supplies of the jewelry industry and greatly expanding the net that would catch commercial fishing boats in the sales-tax Web from 5-ton vessels to 50-ton vessels seems a bit like circling around ailing bison.
Why can’t we just cut the sales tax, period? Maybe when our state economy has rocketed to the forefront of the nation we could think about broadening it, but desperate times call for bolder measures.

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