10 Multi-partisan Policy Principles to Improve on RI’s 48th Ranking in Family Prosperity

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 6, 2016
Multi-partisan Policy Recommendations to Improve Family Prosperity and Upward Mobility

Offers public policy ideas for 2016 State candidates to consider

Providence, RI — With statewide elections in just two months, voters must consider whether a turnover in elected officials is necessary to to see a turnover in public policies that may actually improve their families’ prosperity.

Ranking just 48th on the national Family Prosperity Index (FPI) published earlier this year, the broadest available measure of family well-being, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity (Center) today published a summary of the state’s rankings in dozens of FPI categories along with a set of policy principles that lawmakers are encouraged to consider.

“What if we were to realize that the status quo public policy approach, as well-intended as it may be, in reality, has had the unintended consequence of reducing the overall prosperity of our Rhode Island families,” suggested Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO.”The FPI research clearly demonstrates that cultural, social, and demographic factors must also be considered, in addition to economic factors, when formulating effective public policy.”

The Center maintains that a new public policy approach – an approach that considers the whole person, not just his/her material needs – and that takes the best ideas from across the political spectrum – is required to improve the lives of Ocean State families and individual taxpayers.

The two page policy brief provides a color coded summary of the Ocean State’s rankings. As part of its 48th place ranking among all states, Rhode Island: ranked in the bottom-third in 5 of the 6 major categories, and 18 of the 30 sub-categories; ranked in the middle-third in 1 of 6 major categories and 8 sub-categories; and in the top-third in zero major categories and just 4 sub-categories. The state’s worst rankings are in the major category of Family Demographics, where it ranks red in all 5 sub-categories.

To directly address these problems the Center has developed 10 guiding policy principles that candidates should debate this fall and that lawmakers should consider in the 2017 session. “The solution for our families is not about corporate welfare to targeted ‘advanced industries,’ but rather broad-based policies that enhance opportunity for every family and business,” continued Stenhouse.

In this regard, the Center’s ten policy principles include ideas from the playbooks of both the right and the left. “A new spirit of across-the-aisle and civic cooperation is required if our state government is to effectively serve its constituents. Additionally, community, religious and business leaders also have a very important role to play as public policy cannot address many of the problems Rhode Island must overcome if our families are to improve their chances of upward mobility,” concluded Stenhouse.

School Choice

Center Releases Bright Today School Choice Video to Celebrate Milton Friedman Legacy Day

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 29, 2016

NEW VIDEO: Parents Discuss Why School Choice Would Benefit Their Families as Part of Friedman Legacy Day Celebration

Bright Today Educational Scholarships Would Empower Parents to Choose the Best Educational Path for their Children

Providence, RI —  The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity (Center) joined in the national celebration of the 10th annual Milton Friedman Legacy Day by releasing a new school choice video, featuring two Rhode Island families. Milton Friedman, regarded as the ‘father of school choice’ , would have been 104 years old today.

SCAs creator of and lead advocate for Educational Scholarship Accounts (ESA) in Rhode Island, the Center encourages families concerned about the lack of educational options available for them to learn more about its “Bright Today” ESA scholarship program, Bright Today legislation, which would empower all Ocean State families with new capacities to choose alternative public or private schools for their children, has not moved in the state’s General Assembly over the past two years.

“Everybody agrees that educating our youth is a moral obligation and a vital basis for renewed economic growth. Yet very few in our political class have the courage to stand up to the special interests who want to maintain a government-run school monopoly,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “Just look at the kids in our new video and tell me how we can deny them a better opportunity to improve their chances to go to college, to build a career, and to succeed in life.”

The video, featured on the BrightToday.org website, includes commentary from Gertrude Jones, former President of the Providence School Board and Lifespan Vice President and diversity consultant, who is also an adjunct educational scholar to the Center.

Improving educational outcomes for Rhode Island students is a key component towards improving the state’s dismal 48th place national ranking on the Family Prosperity Index. The Ocean State Current, the Center’s blog and journalism website, also published today a related op-ed – Doing Better by RI’s Children – on the school choice issue.

Over recent year, the Center has partnered with the national Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and with the local RI Families for School Choice to promote the ESA legislation

New: JOBS & OPPORTUNITY INDEX – RI’s Score Drops; Still Mired in 48th Place

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 21, 2016

Rhode Island loses ground, based on lag in long-term employment security

Providence, RI — Despite October data that showed an end to a two month job-loss skid and a slight improvement in its unemployment rate, Rhode Island actually lost ground and is still mired in 48th place by a broader measurement of overall employment opportunity. This according to the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity which noted today that relative long-term unemployment security concerns dropped the state’s total score, keeping the Ocean State stuck with the 48th rank nationally in the Center’s October Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI).

The state’s weak JOI score (which dropped in October to 17.5 on a scale of 0-100 from its September score of 17.9) parallel findings from another national study, the Family Prosperity Index (FPI), where it ranks 43rd overall in “economics” and 44th and last in New England in the sub-category of “entrepreneurship”, which can be largely attributed to an overly-burdensome governmental regulatory regime.

Rhode Island’s poor JOI and FPI rankings are personified by Robert Martinez, a US Navy veteran, who fought a losing battle against oppressive local government regulations and a statewide hostile business climate that has derailed his dream of forging a better quality of life for himself by developing a successful mobile food vendor business.

“The notion that a falling unemployment rate is indicative of improved job prospects and financial security is false,” commented Justin Katz, research director for the Center. “Meaningful long-term work and high-paying jobs that are vital to individual dignity and family self-sufficiency are not in high supply in Rhode Island as compared with other states.”

A more detailed analysis of the October data can be found on The Ocean State Current, the Center’s journalism and blog website.

Of the three factors that make up JOI, the Ocean State ranks:
  • 39th on the Job Outlook Factor (measuring optimism that adequate work is available): a drop of 3 spots from last month.
  • 39th on the Freedom Factor (measuring the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): no change from last month
  • 47th Prosperity Factor (measuring the financial motivation of income versus taxes): no change from last month

The Center’s monthly JOI report is based on state and local tax collection data from a a variety of federal agencies including the U.S. Census and on income data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

Rhode Island has not gained ground on the national JOI metric, remaining – as it has for years – in the bottom five among all states. JOI is a broader and more accurate measure of employment and well-being than the traditionally cited and highly narrow unemployment rate, which has fluctuated more dramatically in recent years for Rhode Island, but which is not an accurate barometer of economic growth or family prosperity.

Supporting the findings of the JOI metric, Rhode Island also ranks 48th in the Family Prosperity Index, the broadest national measure of family well-being.

For the JOI homepage, click here

For a description of JOI and its three sub-factors, click here.

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), October 2016 Lagging on Long-Term Unemployment; Leading with Welfare

For the October Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) report from the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, our methodology changed slightly. All numbers in the Prosperity Factor (income over taxes) are now annualized.The change made no ranking difference for Rhode Island, which remains 48th, but Vermont did move back into third place in the New England race.

Of the 13 datapoints used for the index, nine are updated for the October report, including measures of long-term employment weakness, on which Rhode Island did poorly, compared with the rest of the country. Employment was up 292 from the previously recorded number, while labor force fell 188, and RI-based jobs increased by 2,200. (Note that these are calculated with pre-revision data for the prior month, but using our new methodology.) Medicaid enrollment increased by 3,183 and SNAP by 267, although TANF dropped by 98. Long-term unemployment was down 300 people and marginally attached workers 100, but the number of Rhode Islanders working part-time against their will remained exactly the same.

The first chart at right shows Rhode Island still hopelessly the last state in New England on JOI. New England experienced a mix of improved and declining JOI scores. New Hampshire remained 1st in the nation, and Maine held firm at 20th. Vermont moved up two slots, to 21st, on Maine’s heals. Connecticut moved in the other direction, falling to 34th in the country, while Massachusetts moved up two, to 35th.

ne-joirace-1016

The second chart at right shows the gap between Rhode Island and New England as well as the United States, with the Ocean State gaining slightly on the U.S., but slipping against the region. However, Rhode Island’s gap worsened on the unemployment rate (third chart).

rineus-joi-2005-1016

rineus-unemployment-2005-1016

Results for the three underlying JOI factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (measuring optimism that adequate work is available): RI fell from 36th to 39th.
  • Freedom Factor (measuring the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI remained at 39th.
  • Prosperity Factor (measuring the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI remained at 47th by this factor.

Media Alert: Final pre-Election JOBS & OPPORTUNITY INDEX – Personal Income Falls; RI Stuck at 48th

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 27, 2016

Final Pre-Election JOI Report: Personal Income Down, Personal Taxes Up

Providence, RI — Despite recent endorsements of status quo lawmakers and policies by high-profile political and media elite, voters should be concerned that that Rhode Island is moving in the wrong direction. This according to the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity which today announced that personal income dropped, keep the Ocean State mired in 48th place nationally in the Center’s September Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) 

In the final JOI report prior to November’s elections, revised data shows that Rhode Islanders saw personal income drop by a whopping $589,000,000 as compared with what was previously reported for 2016; this in addition to an increase in all state and local taxes collected, as highlighted in the August JOI report.

“The ratio of income earned vs taxes paid is going in the wrong direction, and underscores that our state also has the worst business climate in the nation,” commented Justin Katz, research director for the Center. “Political leaders point to a lower unemployment rate as reason to continue their policies, but our JOI report shows that real families are suffering the burden from paying for the state’s targeted corporate welfare strategy. Voters are advised to reject the rigged status quo in November, including most spending bonds that favor special interests, and instead demand that lawmakers adopt broad-based tax, regulatory, and spending reductions that will make Rhode Island a better place to raise a family and build a career.”

The Center’s monthly JOI report is based on state and local tax collection data from the U.S. Census and on income data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

Rhode Island has not gained ground on the national JOI metric, remaining – as it has for years – in the bottom five among all states. JOI is a broader and more accurate measure of employment and well-being than the traditionally cited and highly narrow unemployment rate, which has fluctuated more dramatically in recent years for Rhode Island, but which is not an accurate barometer of economic growth or family prosperity.

Supporting the findings of the JOI metric, Rhode Island also ranks 48th in the Family Prosperity Index, the broadest national measure of family well-being.

For the JOI homepage, click here

For a description of JOI and its three sub-factors, click here.

The 2016 “Sheeple” Index: Alarming Number of Lawmakers Vote in Lock-step with Leadership

Despite polices that have caused the Ocean State to suffer the 50th ranked business climate, the 48th rank in Family Prosperity, and the 47th rank in Jobs & Opportunity, our new 2016 “Sheeple” index demonstrates that there is scant dissent among Rhode Island lawmakers who vote for such policies.

This index ranks how often state Representatives and Senators voted in lock-step with leadership. Even with the 2016 General Assembly scoring a dismal (-54.1) on the Center’s 2016 Freedom Index, there was little opposition as more than half of all lawmakers voted with the House Speaker or the Senate President over 95% of the time.

The 2016 “Sheeple” index is a collaboration between WatchdogRI.org and our Center.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Lawmakers who were not present and missed votes are artificially credited in this “sheeple” index as having not voted with leadership. Please refer to the “missed votes” (or Walker) index here to see how many votes any particular lawmaker incurred.

Of the 2016 House’s 489 bills examined, excluding resolutions and solemnizations: 24 Representatives voted at least 98% of the time with the Speaker, with the worst-five “sheeple” offenders are:

  • John DeSimone (99.8%)
  • Ray Johnston, Jr (99.8%)
  • Michael Morin (99.6%)
  • Brian Kennedy (99.39%)
  • Lauren Carson (99.2%).

Of the Senate’s 487 bills, 11 Senators surpassed the 98% sheeple threshold, the five least independent when it came to casting votes in lock-step with the Senate President are:

  • Susan Sosnowski (99.6%)
  • Dominick Ruggerio (99.2%)
  • Erin Lynch (99.2%)
  • Steve Archambault (98.8%)
  • Hanna Gallo (98.6%)

“In a healthy democracy, there should be a rigorous debate of diverse policies. Sadly, and conversely in Rhode Island, it seems that when leadership authorizes bills to move forward, legislators feel compelled to automatically support them,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “The statistics in this report present an alarming pattern of elected officials blindly following the leader. Voters this November must decide if this is how they want their government to be run.”

Who Voted FOR & AGAINST A 38 Studios Special Investigation

At their July 29, 2016 press conference, the RI Attorney General and the State Police did not release the names of those officials who may have acted in an unethical political manner in the 38 Studios debacle, nor did they release related documents.

Now, many politicians are calling for the release of the documents. Yet, just six weeks earlier, many of these same lawmakers VOTED AGAINST legislation to initiate a special independent 38 Studios investigation.

On June 15, 2016, Representative Patricia Morgan (R-Coventry, West Warwick) submitted the following amendment to the RI state budget in order to fund a special prosecutor. You can see below who voted FOR or AGAINST finding the truth about the 38 Studios scandal:

 

38StudiosInvestigation-Amendment

Mike Stenhouse: R.I.’s complacent political class

Originally Published In The Providence Journal On July 7, 2016:

Rhode Island has the worst business climate in the nation. It ranks 48th on both the Family Prosperity Index of the American Conservative Union and the Jobs and Opportunity Index of our Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity. It has virtually zero population growth, and it has suffered the ignominy of dozens of other near-bottom rankings. Despite all this, our Rhode Island political class appears content not to rock the boat.

When we hear boasts that there were no broad-based tax increases in the recently passed state budget, we hear an attitude of complacency that is typical of the political elite, whose main goal is to perpetuate the status quo, as opposed to making the hard decisions that will improve the quality of lives of its residents.

The irony, of course, is that our political leaders seem to genuinely believe that they have made major positive reforms. Maybe, relatively speaking, they just don’t understand what major reform looks like.

Years ago, when our center sought to paint a more complete image of the state’s jobs picture, we found that Rhode Island, along with Indiana and Michigan, ranked among the bottom three states in terms of recovery of employment from pre-recession peaks. Faced with an obviously unacceptable status quo, two of these three states took bold and major action. One state did not. Can you guess which one?

First Indiana, then recently Michigan, enacted right-to-work laws that provided workplace freedom for employees and that also gave employers new incentives to establish or grow businesses in their states. Since then, Indiana has rocketed up to 20th on this same employment index, while Michigan is already on the climb at 44th.

These are examples of the bold kind of political leadership and major reform that can quickly transform the prosperity of the people and businesses in our state.

Conversely, the meager reforms put forth this year by Ocean State politicians pale in comparison and will do very little to help the average family in any meaningful way. As in recent years, the negative legislation outweighed the good. Million-dollar studies and fancy new names for programs that perpetuate the same kind of special-interest, 38 Studios-type preferential tax policies that are responsible for driving Rhode Island into a rut in the first place, are nothing new — and certainly are not anything bold.

And while other states are decisively moving forward, Rhode Island is falling in the wrong direction. Only briefly out of the bottom three, our Ocean State is back wallowing as the second worst state when it comes to recovering lost employment, with West Virginia in last place. But West Virginia politicians chose not to accept this fate and sit idly by. Earlier this year, the Mountain State became the nation’s 26th state to pass right-to-work laws, also repealing prevailing-wage mandates that artificially drive up the cost of public works projects.

If Rhode Island’s complacency continues — both by our political class and by voters who re-elect it year after year — we will soon see Rhode Island lose one of its two congressional seats and shamefully slip to last place when it comes to renewing hope and opportunity for our families.
Rhode Island needs to dare to disrupt the status quo and boldly evolve itself into a regional outlier so that we can become a magnet — on our own — for businesses, jobs and families.

Instead, our political class wants us to devolve into a dependent suburb of Boston’s economy. We need to think bigger.

Rhode Island politicians will not have the chance to change their act until next year. However, voters can lead the way by acting this year to deliver a clear message at November’s ballot box.
In this wild and unpredictable year of national politics, the big question is whether or not the tsunami of public discontent will reach our Ocean State shores and compel voters to send a necessary jolt to our political class.

STATEMENT on Proposed 2017 RI Budget

STATEMENT: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
June 8, 2016

RI Families Once Again Left Out of State Budget

Multiple Special Interest & Corporate Welfare Programs Outweigh Few Relief Provisions
Lawmakers Adopt Center’s Recommendation to increase EITC in lieu of Minimum Wage hike

Providence, RI — With nothing bold to address the massive structural budget deficits, its dismal business climate, or the state’s 48th ranking on the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity‘s Jobs & Opportunity Index, Rhode Island lawmakers are once again advancing a special interest laden agenda that offers little relief or hope for new opportunities for the average Rhode Island family.

“What does the average family have to cheer about in this budget? The few provisions that offer minor relief to some are overwhelmingly outweighed by the massive special interest and corporate welfare spending that will continue drag-down our state economy,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “Only when the total relief package is bigger than new spending can we claim that Rhode Island is heading in the right direction.”

While recognizing the reductions in retiree income taxes, the corporate minimum tax, and trucker registration and beach parking fees, the Center notes that these cuts are themselves narrowly targeted and are more than offset by the increases in corporate welfare, new Uber and marijuana taxes, pre-K funding, and new special-interest bond initiatives.

The Center maintains that major broad-based tax reforms are required to jump-start the Ocean State’s stagnant economy and jobs market.

Also according to the Center, the continued funding of the unethical legislative and community grant programs, despite the mirage of reform, can only be seen a perpetuation of a corrupt, status quo insider culture.

As help to low-income workers, the Center praises lawmakers for adoptng the Center’s March 2016 recommendation to hold the minimum wage steady and, instead, increase the Earned-Income-Tax-Credit (EITC), which rewards work without risking job losses.

Jobs Opportunity Index (JOI) is a Better Metric than Unemployment Rate

There is no JOI in Mudville … Ocean State strikes out – ranking 48th – in in the Center’s new Jobs & Opportunity Index of economic well-being, despite recent celebrations of traditional unemployment rate. JOI was designed to help lawmakers craft better policy.