Prosperity Agenda for Rhode Island


Imagine route I-95 as freeway where human and capital resources start flowing into our state instead of out. Imagine Rhode Island as the most dramatic turnaround state in the USA, with restored economic competitiveness and renewed pride for our citizens. Imagine a reinvigorated economy, new jobs, a world-class educational system, and a return to statewide prosperity.

Unleashing Rhode Island by Tearing Down the Barriers to Success

Rhode Island’s jobs outlook is uniquely dismal in the nation. Further, our state’s failing Report Card demonstrates that a bold, new policy path must be blazed, one that leads us to renewed opportunity and economic growth. In order to enhance the Ocean State’s business climate and to become more competitive with our regional and national neighbors,  we must exit from our current public policy direction.

A handful of major policy reforms and numerous other policy reforms can provide a catalyst for systemic change. For too long, policymakers have focused on providing more government services for more people, attempting to present a balanced budget, but in the end, unwittingly creating even more barriers to economic prosperity. Instead a new public policy course should focus on economic growth and enhancing our capacity to attract and maintain people, investment capital, and businesses.

The recommendations below are merely a starting point. There are dozens of other reforms that are also needed. Over the coming months and years, our Center will add new policy recommendations to this Prosperity Agenda.

High-Impact Policy Reforms:

Among the handful of  “game changing” reforms that would result significant near-term gains for the Ocean State, our Center recommends that Rhode Island:

1) Eliminate the State Sales Tax:  the centerpiece of our Prosperity Agenda; would create over 20,000 new jobs.

2) Establish RI as a “Right to Work” state:  would provide increased worker freedom and would be a major competitive advantage in attracting new businesses to our state.

3) Implement Market-based reforms within Obamacare and Health Insurance Exchange Laws:  As Rhode Island and the nation move forward with implementation of the Affordable Care Act, significant challenges remain regarding access to affordable, quality care while many other issues will be left un-addressed … solution? A  Health Care Freedom Act.

(click on an item above or below to learn more) 

Other Policy Reforms

Rhode Island also suffers from “death by a thousand cuts” syndrome, where dozens upon dozens of laws create barriers to economic growth in our state. Tearing down some of the barriers suggested below are a good start:

4) Bright Today Educational Reformswould increase the educational opportunities and freedom of Rhode Island’s students, especially the disadvantaged.

  1. School Voucher program: would provide special-needs students with a scholarship to attend the school of their choice.
  2. Real Grading of Schools: would grade all public schools in straightforward, universally understood method: A, B, C, D, F.

5) Eliminate Corporate Welfare: would reduce cronyism and corruption, maintain a level playing field, and defund the EDC’s capacity to risk taxpayer dollars on private sector businesses.

6) Implement Tort Reform: would include medical malpractice reforms and a criminal intent provision that protects the innocent.

7) Repeal the Estate Tax: would help keep more wealthy taxpayers in our state, expanding our tax base.

8 ) Lower the Minimum Wage to the Federal Level: would create more jobs, especially for teens, and would reduce the cost of doing business in Rhode Island for many businesses.

9) Reduce Occupational Licensing Mandates: includes five ideas that would open career opportunities and reduce the costs of services without sacrificing consumer safety.

10)  Reform or Repeal Renewable Energy Mandates: would reduce cost of energy for households and businesses, now artificially raised by unreasonable green energy portfolio mandates.

11) Require “Truth in Pension Accounting”: would require municipal and state governments to utilize more realistic accounting assumptions in evaluating and reporting pension liabilities.

12) Enact Collective Bargaining Reforms for Public Employees: would encourage public versus private sector compensation parity, limit the scope of labor contracts, and reduce monopolistic negotiating advantages, potentially saving over $250 million per year for Rhode Island.

PODCAST: 790AM 9-6-12 Stenhouse Podcast ; Mike Stenhouse discusses the PROSPERITY AGENDA on “Positively RI”

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