Statement: SCOTUS Decision, Massive Rate Hike Should Doom HealthSource RI

STATEMENT
June 26, 2015
FY2016 Should be Last Year of Continued Taxpayer and Ratepayer Subsidies for Failed Boondoggle
Exchange Can be More Efficiently Operated by the Federal Government

Providence, RI — Based on yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and with statewide health insurance premiums once again set to sky-rocket, the nonpartisan Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity suggests that FY2016 should be the last year that Rhode Island taxpayers and ratepayers should be burdened with subsidizing HealthSource RI.

The Supreme Court ruling, which preserved federal insurance subsidies across the nation, effectively removed one of the major arguments of proponents seeking to keep the state exchange funded by Rhode Islanders. Further, based on today’s Providence Journal story that insurance rates could rise by as much as 18% next year, HealthSource RI has obviously failed in its promise to control rate increases.

“There is no longer any legitimate reason for Rhode Islanders to continue to pay for this self-created boondoggle,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “It’s time to renew the discussion about sending our exchange to the federal government, where efficiencies of scale can allow it to be operated at a significantly lower cost than we can run it on our own in Rhode Island. And now we can do so without any fear of anyone losing their subsidy.”

Rhode Island is one of just 15 states that fully-funds and operates its own insurance exchange. As the Center has documented over recent years, the Ocean State does not have a large enough tax base or insurance base to justify the related high costs.

Media Contact:
Mike Stenhouse, CEO
401.429.6115 | info@rifreedom.org

About the Center
The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is Rhode Island’s premiere free-enterprise think tank. The mission of the 501c3 nonprofit organization is to return government to the people by opposing special-interest politics and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives by restoring economic competitiveness, increasing educational opportunities, and protecting individual freedoms.

2015 Legislator Scorecard – Now Live!

HOW DOES YOUR REPRESENTATIVE OR SENATOR RANK?

Preliminary ratings show RI General Assembly turns state in the wrong direction once again!

[button url=”http://rifreedom.org/rifreedomindex/” target=”_self” size=”medium” style=”royalblue” ] Interactive Scorecard Here [/button]

Statement: Center Applauds House for Taking 1st Step in Mitigating RhodeMap RI Mandates

STATEMENT
June 25, 2015

H6040A Seeks to Protect Localities from Mandated Zoning Changes
Senate and Administration Urged to Follow Suit

Providence, RI — The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity applauds the RI House of Representatives for responding to the concerns of Rhode Islanders and taking action to preserve local governmental sovereignty from federal and state control over local housing issues, by undoing a portion of the most oppressive components of the controversial RhodeMap RI scheme.

House bill H6040A, which eliminates the requirement for any city or town to be forced to change its local zoning ordinances in order to comply with state guide plan mandates or federal dictates, passed last evening by a vote of 69-1 . It restores the decision making process to where it belongs, with local officials. In recent weeks, multiple national media outlets reported on this federal intrusion into local matters.

The Center, on behalf of the large grassroots movement that has spoken-out vociferously against this centralized-plan, urges Senate and the Administration officials to follow the lead of the House.

“RhodeMap RI, without any approval or direction from the elected representatives of the people of Rhode Island, was adopted into the state’s official guide plan by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in December of 2014,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “This legislation is a first-step towards unraveling this ‘Trojan Horse’ for a federal takeover of local land-use and housing decisions.”

Media Contact:
Mike Stenhouse, CEO
401.429.6115 | info@rifreedom.org

About the Center
The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is Rhode Island’s premiere free-enterprise think tank. The mission of the 501c3 nonprofit organization is to return government to the people by opposing special-interest politics and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives by restoring economic competitiveness, increasing educational opportunities, and protecting individual freedoms

Rhode Island Employment Snapshot, May 2015: Hockey Sticks and Cliff Jumping

[Click here for the printable one-page PDF of this post.]

The headline news is that Rhode Island’s unemployment rate dipped below 6% in May for the first time since November 2007, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For some perspective, a fifth grader grinding out the space between Thanksgiving and Christmas when the Ocean State’s unemployment rate left the 5-6% range behind was preparing to graduate from high school when it slipped the other way.

Improvement in Rhode Island’s employment numbers has been a long slog, and as recently as this October, the unemployment rate was still over 7%. In late 2013, the unemployment rate began falling about a full percentage point every six months, roughly. The big difference of the last six months, as the first chart below shows, is that the reason isn’t that the labor force kept disappearing. We’re in hockey-stick territory, now. (That is if one believes the numbers; these first-half boosts have tended to be revised down significantly.)

The second chart shows that Rhode Island remains far behind its neighbors when it comes to recovering lost employment. Both Connecticut and Massachusetts are now well above their labor force and employment rates as of January 2007, while Rhode Island isn’t even close. For those two states, however, the increase in employment and (especially) labor force is not quite as recent a development.

The third chart shows how peculiar the numbers actually are. Both labor force and employment are supposed to come independently from survey data, pegged to certain benchmarks, but the blue line, which shows the actual employment data, presents a smooth downward curve. The red line shows what the curve would have been if the labor force had not shrunk since January 2007, and it ends in a conspicuous cliff.

In May, unemployment would still have been 8.9%. More tellingly, though, it would still have been 11.0% as recently as December.

RI-laborforceandemp-0107-0515

RIMACT-laborforceandemp-0515perc0107

RI-unemploymentrate-steadyLF-0107-0515

Freedom Index “Live” Update: Zero Legislators Now with Positive Score; Overall GA Index Falls to (-79)

Freedom Index “Live” Update
Zero Legislators Now with Positive Score; Overall GA Index Falls to (-79)

Providence, RI — Individual legislator voting scores and the overall legislative direction of the General Assembly took a precipitous fall last week, according to an interactive scorecard, updated Monday, which can be viewed live online, published by the nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity. The near real-time RI Freedom Index – Live rates individual pieces of legislation, according to whether or not they preserve or infringe upon the freedoms of Rhode Islanders, then scores General Assembly legislators based on how they voted for each bill.

While not all 2015 bills have been evaluated, to date 194 bills have preliminarily been rated as qualifying for the Freedom Index scorecard; 117 with a negative rating, 73 with a positive rating and 4 yet to be rated, with an aggregate General Assembly negative rating of (-79) (down from (-56) last week), meaning once again, lawmakers are on a path to do more harm than good when it comes to legislation that preserves the freedom and, therefore, the prosperity of our state’s residents.

Not one of 113 state legislators scored above zero. For each vote, every legislator has the chance to earn a positive score. To date, 57 rated bills have received a floor vote.

With the online tool, voters can monitor the scorecards – as votes occur – for all legislators, and can sort and filter by party, district, bill category, and legislator score. The tool also includes separate interactive district maps for the House and Senate.

For more information about current and prior year Freedom Index posts, please visit RIFreedom.org/FreedomIndex.

About the Center
The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is Rhode Island’s premiere free-enterprise think tank. The mission of the 501c3 nonprofit organization is to return government to the people by opposing special-interest politics and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives by restoring economic competitiveness, increasing educational opportunities, and protecting individual freedoms.

Statement: Open And Contentious Debate Being Stifled By The Status Quo

STATEMENT
June 17, 2015

Open And Contentious Debate Being Stifled By the Status Quo
Budget The Culmination Of Months Of Back-Room Negotiations And Special Deals

The floor session addressing the state’s budget in the Rhode Island House of Representatives was short, pervasively unanimous, and light on opposition action. The momentum of the evening – the culmination of months of back-room negotiations and special deals – was so strong that Republicans did not even put forward a plan that their caucus had developed as an alternative for funding infrastructure without debt.

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity has already released a statement on the budget, itself, and the details are largely unchanged. On the day after the vote, however, Rhode Islanders should find it shocking that insiders and special interests have our government so locked up that neither conservatives nor progressives can muster sustained political opposition to a budget that claims so much authority for the government and spends so much of the people’s money.

Providing an alternative to the status quo thinking about government is core to the Center’s mission. Now more than ever, the people of Rhode Island must work independently of their government to change minds, to change the debate, and to change the direction in which the Ocean State is headed.

Only a well-informed, passionate electorate can put Rhode Islanders back at the center of their state’s decision-making process and foster freedom and prosperity. If there is no open and contentious debate inside the State House, then it is only more critical for there to be open and contentious debate outside of it.

Media Contact:
Mike Stenhouse, CEO
401.429.6115 | info@rifreedom.org
About the Center
The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is Rhode Island’s premiere free-enterprise think tank. The mission of the 501c3 nonprofit organization is to return government to the people by opposing special-interest politics and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives by restoring economic competitiveness, increasing educational opportunities, and protecting individual freedoms.

STATEMENT: Childcare Subsidies Will Enrich Labor Unions

STATEMENT
June 16, 2015

Childcare Subsidies Will Enrich Labor Unions
Non-transparent process leads to added taxpayer burden

As the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity predicted in 2013, the non-transparent process surrounding union negotiations for childcare subsidies will enrich labor unions while adding to taxpayers’ burden. In another budget cycle during which the state government is hunting for every dollar it can find, Governor Raimondo and the General Assembly have made dues to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) a priority.

As Katherine Gregg has reported in the Providence Journal, the budget on which the Rhode Island House will vote tonight includes $2.15 million in raises for independent childcare providers whose clients receive state subsidies. The expense to taxpayers is the only indication that the state has given that it has a first-ever agreement with the SEIU local representing the private providers.

In 2013, the General Assembly and Governor Lincoln Chafee changed state law in order to allow the childcare providers, who are not government employees, to unionize in order to negotiate rates with the state. In a short time frame, and through a process tainted with controversy, the SEIU won the right to represent the approximately 540 providers.

Despite a related ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity believes renders the state law unconstitutional, the Chafee and Raimondo administrations continued negotiations. Now, at the conclusion of the completely non-transparent process, elected officials are poised to pass the costs on to the heavily burdened people of Rhode Island.

“With our unhealthy economy and projections of government deficits on into the future, Rhode Islanders have to start catching on to the game, here,” said Justin Katz, Research Director for the Center. “If needy families are having trouble finding providers because the subsidies are too low, the General Assembly could have increased the rates without the involvement of an expensive labor union.”

Details of the agreement still have not been made public. Based on budget numbers provided by the House Speaker’s office and the Center’s review of similar contracts in other states, the amount of the increase going entirely to the labor union could be around $1 million – about half of the total raise.

The state should immediately release details of the agreement so the people of Rhode Island and their elected officials can make informed decisions prior to budget votes.

Media Contact:
Justin Katz, Research Director
401.835.7156 | info@rifreedom.org

About the Center
The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is Rhode Island’s premiere free-enterprise think tank. The mission of the 501c3 nonprofit organization is to return government to the people by opposing special-interest politics and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives by restoring economic competitiveness, increasing educational opportunities, and protecting individual freedoms.

2015 Legislator Scorecard Update; Only 12 Legislators with Positive Scores

Freedom Index “Live” Update
Only 12 lawmakers earn positive scores; Overall GA Index at (-56)

 

Providence, RI — As 2015 bills receive floor votes, an updated interactive scorecard of legislator voting records can be viewed live online, published by the nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity. The near real-time RI Freedom Index – Live rates individual pieces of legislation, according to whether or not they preserve or infringe upon the freedoms of Rhode Islanders, then scores General Assembly legislators based on how they voted for each bill.

While not all 2015 bills have been evaluated, to date 176 bills have preliminarily been rated as qualifying for the Freedom Index scorecard; 101 with a negative rating, 71 with a positive rating and 4 yet to be rated, with an aggregate General Assembly negative rating of (-56) (up from (-58) last week), meaning once again, lawmakers are on a path to do more harm than good when it comes to legislation that preserves the freedom and, therefore, the prosperity of our state’s residents.

Out of 113 state legislators, only 12 earned a positive score, all in the House (9 Republican, 3 Democrat). For each vote, every legislator has the chance to earn a positive score. To date, the 176 rated bills have generated 31 actual floor votes.

With the online tool, voters can monitor the scorecards – as votes occur – for all legislators, and can sort and filter by party, district, bill category, and legislator score. The tool also includes separate interactive district maps for the House and Senate.

For more information about current and prior year Freedom Index posts, please visit RIFreedom.org/FreedomIndex.

About the Center
The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is Rhode Island’s premiere free-enterprise think tank. The mission of the 501c3 nonprofit organization is to return government to the people by opposing special-interest politics and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives by restoring economic competitiveness, increasing educational opportunities, and protecting individual freedoms.

BREAKING: National Media, Federal Lawmakers Support Center’s Research on RhodeMap RI; HUD “Bribes”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 12, 2015

National Figures Express Same Concerns as the Center
HUD Plans to “Bribe” Local Communities into Change Zoning Laws
Constitutionality Questioned

Providence, RI — Fox News and other national media outlets are now reporting on the federal agenda to “bribe” communities into implementing HUD’s “utopian” social equity agenda, as documented by the nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity. The Center, which was derided for its research conclusions at a recent Senate Committee hearing, has been a persistent advocate against the statewide RhodeMap RI plan, claiming it is a Trojan Horse to implement a federal agenda.

“Maybe state and local lawmakers and the public will now give more credence to what we’ve been saying for the past eight months,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “There can no longer be any question that RhodeMap RI is a tool of the federal government to supersede the sovereignty of municipalities and to infringe on the rights of private property owners.”

With multiple pieces of bi-partisan legislation currently being considered in the both Rhode Island House and Senate that would provide municipalities with opt-out options, the Center recommends that state lawmakers educate themselves on the true genesis and future agenda of the RhodeMap RI scheme. Rhode Islanders are encouraged to contact their legislators to stop RhodeMap RI via an easy-to-use online tool at The Gaspee Project, a partner organization.

Among the comments from national media reports:

Rep. Mia Love

“The most radical, politically explosive … social engineering of the worst kind.” “An insidious idea … to organize your neighborhood from Washington, DC … will either bribe or blackmail (communities) into changing their zoning policies.” Fox News, The Kelly File, June 11, 2015.

“People being used as pawns in this political game … based on income level, race … ” said Mia Love, US Representative (R, Utah).

“(HUD) would offer grants to municipalities … and in return … the municipalities would change their zoning laws … (HUD) wants to pre-empt local zoning laws … by buying off local(ities) … It’s very questionable from a constitutional point of view.” Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox business News, The Intelligence File, June 11, 2015.

HUD “shouldn’t be holding hostage grant monies aimed at community improvement based on its unrealistic utopian ideas of what every community should resemble,” said US Representative Paul Gosar (R, Arizona) in a Newsmax article. Gosar added in an article by The Hill, “American citizens … should be free to choose where they would like to live and not be subject to federal neighborhood engineering at the behest of an overreaching federal government.”

The Center has published multiple reports and related analysis pieces on RhodeMap RI which can be viewed at RIFreedom.org/PropertyRights.

Media Contact:
Mike Stenhouse, CEO
401.429.6115 | info@rifreedom.org

About the Center
The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is Rhode Island’s premiere free-enterprise think tank. The mission of the 501c3 nonprofit organization is to return government to the people by opposing special-interest politics and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives by restoring economic competitiveness, increasing educational opportunities, and protecting individual freedoms.

STATEMENT: General Assembly Budget – More of the Same

STATEMENT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 10, 2015

2016 Budget Has No Broad-based Reforms

No Game Changing Economic Ideas
Continued Special-Interest Spending

Providence, RI — The General Assembly’s proposed FY-2016 budget plan, consistent with recent annual budgets, and despite the positive spin from lawmakers, includes no broad-based plan to boost Rhode Island’s stagnant jobs market, according to the nonpartisan Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity. The Center maintains that the budget gives government more power in attempting to orchestrate economic development and represents a further departure from proven free-market principles

While the budget does include a number of positive elements, there are off-setting negative elements that will largely serve to maintain the Ocean State’s stagnant status quo. In fact, in its initial ratings of 151 bills on its annual Legislative Scorecard, the Center scored 92 bills as having a negative impact, with only 59 bills rated as positive.

“Our state levies high taxes, spends at high levels, and has amassed high debt … yet when you look at our business climate, infrastructure and education, it is obvious that taxpayers are receiving low value for their hard-earned tax dollars,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “Once again special-interest insiders will benefit at the expense of average Rhode Islanders.”

The plan’s government-centric approach toward economic development that favors unions and targeted industries is merely an extension of the same, failed public policy approach that is responsible for sinking Rhode Island into its current economic rut. The Center, instead, recommends broad based tax and spending reductions as the primary means to boost the economy, as have been highly successful in North Carolina.

Among the minor, positive elements in the budget are the elimination of income tax on social security and the sales tax on commercial energy; the reduction of the corporate tax; the minimal Medicaid reforms; and the exclusion of the Taylor Swift tax and the trucker tolls.

On the negative side, are new taxes on health insurance premiums and on vacation home rentals, and higher taxes on cigarettes; union hand-outs such as spending for all day kindergarten and construction jobs; and multiple corporate welfare programs such as the real estate development tax credit, the vendor relocation tax credit, and the I-195 redevelopment fund.

Other major issues are still outstanding, some that will impact municipal budgets and local governmental sovereignty:

  • A realistic plan to address the state’s crumbling roads and bridges
  • The pro firefighter and municipal employee collective bargaining bills
  • Bills to reduce the negative impacts of RhodeMap RI
  • The Pawtucket Red Sox stadium deal

Media Contact:
Mike Stenhouse, CEO
401.429.6115 | info@rifreedom.org

About the Center
The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is Rhode Island’s premiere free-enterprise think tank. The mission of the 501c3 nonprofit organization is to return government to the people by opposing special-interest politics and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives by restoring economic competitiveness, increasing educational opportunities, and protecting individual freedoms.