Milton Friedman Legacy Day Celebration 2015!

The Center is joining with other across the country to honor the life and legacy of the esteemed economist Milton Friedman!

To celebrate, the Center participated in an event at Rocky Point State Park to introduce hundreds of Rhode Islanders to the idea of School Choice. We told real families about the most promising education reform in the Ocean State and around the country. More and more families are learning that Bright Today scholarships will mean a more accountable and effective school system for every single child. Every child, no matter their zip code, deserves access to an education of their parent’s choice. School Choice moves dollars and decision-making closer to the student.

In the words of Friedman, “Our goal is to have a system in which every family in the U.S. will be able to choose for itself the school to which its children go. We are far from that ultimate result. If we had that – a system of free choice – we would also have a system of competition, innovation, which would change the character of education.”

Please Sign The Petition Now!

 

MEDIA RELASE: Center Calls on Governor Raimondo to Halt Controversial HPV Vaccine Mandate

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 30, 2015
Controversial Vaccine Mandated by Regulatory Fiat

Center Recommends Parents Claim a Religious Exemption to Maintain Rights
Calls on Governor to Delay the Mandate and Lawmakers to Overturn the Edict

Providence, RI — In a stunning revelation made public in a Providence Journal article yesterday, all Rhode Island 7th graders will be mandated to receive a controversial HPV vaccination that infringes on parental rights and has been subject of national scorn in recent years.

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity finds it even more troubling that Rhode Island will become just the second state to mandate the vaccine … and the only state to do so by regulatory fiat, without public debate, and without consideration from the elected representatives of the people.

“This growing trend of government by executive fiat and regulatory despotism bypasses the traditional democratic process and must cease. Like RhodeMap RI, why do we continue to allow unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats to arbitrarily make such important public policy decisions,” asked Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “Where are the voices of the Governor and our General Assembly, whose authority is being infringed upon by out-of-control bureaucratic ideologues? We call on the Governor to immediately halt this mandate in order to give lawmakers time to consider overturning this unprecedented edict.”

“Not only are the FDA approved vaccines for HPV relatively new and not vetted to the satisfaction of many in the medical community, they have been cited as the cause of many injuries, health complications and even death in some cases. Parents and the public have every right to be concerned about their children’s health,” said Gary D. Alexander, former Secretary of Health and Human Services for Rhode Island and adjunct scholar for health issues to the Center. “The state has not provided a proper public forum to discuss these concerns with parents. The implementation of this mandate must be delayed until a full public process has been conducted and all fears allayed.”

Also, a group of Rhode Island physicians that have been in contact with the Center do not believe an epidemic exists, especial one that should warrant such a drastic mandate; they further question whether the Gardasil vaccine is even effective. The doctors further claim that the potential side-effects of the vaccination include paralysis and death. The group cites that traditional pap smear tests are highly effective in diagnosing the human papillomavirus. The physicians also argue that the disease is not a public health issue in America, but rather a personal health issue, where parents – not the state government – should be making such important decisions about whether or not to have the vaccines administered to their children.

In 2011, then Texas governor and presidential candidate, Rick Perry, came under intense national criticism for issuing a similar executive order. Perry would later call his executive order a mistake, after the Texas legislature decided to overturn it.

The Center strongly recommends that any parent uncomfortable with this vaccine for their children should claim a ‘religious medical exemption’, which can be executed via a simple form that can be downloaded from the health.ri.gov website.

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, June 2015: RI Bucks Southern New England Trend?

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

The June employment data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides a good lesson in a number of the ways in which the data can be misleading. For one thing, looking at the unemployment rate, one could say that Rhode Island dipped below 6% for the first time since November 2007. Of course, one could have said the same thing last month. But the BLS revised May up to 6%, so the Ocean State gets to repeat its milestone.

As the first chart below shows, this has been a banner, booming year, for Rhode Island. More and more people are looking for work and, at least when it comes to the statistics, more and more people are finding it. The curious thing is that this growth has been unabated for so many months, yet the news and anecdotes around Rhode Island wouldn’t lead one to expect such a boom. Indeed, in June, the number of jobs available in Rhode Island, as measured by another BLS dataset, actually went down. Readers should keep in mind that two years in a row have brought dramatic downward revisions come the following January.

Another bit of conflicting information is related to the second chart. The fact that Massachusetts and Connecticut are doing so much better than Rhode Island, when it comes to making up for losses during the recession, is not new. What’s new is that Massachusetts and Connecticut slowed or lost ground in June, while Rhode Island’s sprint continues. That could be accurate, but it seems unlikely.

The third chart illustrates the significance of the size of the labor force. 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. It also illustrates that Rhode Island has a long way to go, even according to the questionable statistics. In June, unemployment would still have been 8.5%. Even that represents a huge drop, over the course of this year so far, from 11.0% in December.

RI-laborforceandemp-0107-0615

RIMACT-laborforceandemp-0615perc0107

RI-unemploymentrate-steadyLF-0107-0615

Making RhodeWorks Work for Rhode Islanders

[button url=”http://rifreedom.org/wp-content/uploads/ricfp-makingrhodeworkswork-071315.pdf” target=”http://rifreedom.org/wp-content/uploads/ricfp-makingrhodeworkswork-071315.pdf” size=”medium” style=”royalblue” ]Click for full “Making RhodeWorks Work” report[/button]

As an alternative option to fund repairs of the Ocean State’s crumbling bridge and road infrastructure, a “pay as you go” approach that prioritizes current general revenue in the budget would provide budget certainty and save over half a billion dollars in wasteful, non-productive financing and overhead costs for Rhode Islanders, compared with Governor Gina Raimondo’s RhodeWorks plan, which increases Rhode Island’s debt burden and tolls the trucking industry to pay for it.

Specific savings that can be achieved by adopting a Pay As You Go approach include:

  • $563 million in interest costs
  • $49 million in financing debt and service reserve costs
  • $43+ million in tolling infrastructure (gantries and administration)

Cuts to corporate welfare and other non-essential spending programs can pay for the project instead. Prioritizing infrastructure spending in the state’s existing budget, there would be no need to identify significant new sources of revenue that would drain money from the private sector, make Rhode Island even less competitive with our neighbors, and place unnecessary downward pressure on an already stagnant state economy.

Taxpayers also should not automatically accept the historically high cost of road and bridge repair and construction in our state.
Instead of enriching insider interests such as Wall Street financial institutions, labor unions, and large union-shop contractors, taxpayers should demand fiscal discipline and restraint by limiting the scope of the RhodeWorks project to what Rhode Islanders actually need and can afford.

From a process perspective, Rhode Islanders are fed up with non-transparent backroom deals among insiders that shut out the voice of the public. Few details of the plan’s financials have been released. It is also questionable from a constitutional and ethical point of view whether or not a bond of this magnitude can be, or should be, authorized without a vote of the people.

RhodeWorksvTruePriorities-costs-web

[button url=”http://rifreedom.org/wp-content/uploads/ricfp-makingrhodeworkswork-071315.pdf” target=”http://rifreedom.org/wp-content/uploads/ricfp-makingrhodeworkswork-071315.pdf” size=”medium” style=”royalblue” ]Click for full “Making RhodeWorks Work” report[/button]

Governor’s BOND & TOLL plan will waste over $650 million

PAY-AS-YOU-GO a Superior Approach.

The plan under consideration would more than double the cost of the project and would enrich special-interests without any added benefit for Rhode Islanders. The Center’s new report shows how to make RhodeWorks “work” for Rhode Island.

[button url=”http://rifreedom.org/2015/07/making-rhodeworks-work-for-rhode-islanders/” target=”_self” size=”medium” style=”royalblue” ] Read the PayGo Report here [/button]

BREAKING: New Federal HUD Rule Validates Center’s RhodeMapRI Claims

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 10, 2015

As Forewarned, HUD Finalizes Rule in Effort to Desegregate Local Neighborhoods via Plans like RhodeMap RI
State Planning Officials Denied True Agenda and Federal Connection

Providence, RI — Following weeks of speculation in national news stories, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) this week has finalized a new housing rule that confirms the federal connection and hidden agenda of the controversial RhodeMapRI plan, as forewarned almost 9 months ago by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity

“Despite denials by officials from the RI Division of Planning, it is now fully apparent that RhodeMap RI is nothing more than a Trojan Horse to implement a federal agenda,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “RhodeMap RI is a social-engineering tool of the federal government that will supersede the sovereignty of municipalities and will infringe upon the rights of private property owners … all in the name of the HUD’s warped vision of how to achieve social equity.”

Rhode Island administration officials have continually denied any connection with this federal agenda, yet recent developments belie their claim. The stealth advancement of the true agenda behind the RhodeMap RI plan, as the Center has maintained from day one, was further validated at a recent forum conducted by the nationally renowned Brookings Institution, a major supporter of the Obama administration’s anti-suburban ‘regionalist’ policies. In a video of the event, one supporter of the new HUD rule stated in effect, that keeping the purpose of the rule “obscure” may be the best political strategy to “get it through” (1:23:43 mark). Similarly, the Center has suggested that this type of intentional deception is how RhodeMap RI was able to become an official part of the state guide plan without any approval of the RI General Assembly.

This revelation is important, as two critical pieces of related legislation are now in legislative limbo due to the abrupt closure of the 2015 legislative session:

House bill H6107-A, which stealthily passed the House Finance Committee in an eleventh hour suspended-rules maneuver, would provide RhodeMap RI proponents with a vital tool to advance its agenda … namely, to expand a dual-tiered property tax system that would likely raise property taxes on single-family homeowners; but could also reduce overall revenues to municipalities by dramatically reducing property taxes on a multitude of loosely defined affordable housing units. Potentially unconstitutional in Rhode Island, a similar policy in the town of Barrington is being challenged in a citizen-initiated lawsuit now in the state’s Superior Court.

Conversely, House bill H6040-A, which passed the entire House, would restore some measure of sovereignty to municipal governments by allowing them to opt out of some of the more burdensome housing mandates of the RhodeMap RI plan.

Neither bill had the chance to be officially considered in the Senate.

Rhode Islanders are encouraged to contact their legislators to reduce the negative impact of RhodeMap RI via an easy-to-use online tool at The Gaspee Project, a partner organization.

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.

Mike Stenhouse: Court ruling dooms HealthSource RI

Originally Published in the Providence Journal: http://www.providencejournal.com/article/20150707/OPINION/150709689/13831

The jig should be up for HealthSource RI. In 2014 the state’s insurance exchange, with its high cost of annual operation, was saved by last-minute funding from the federal government. This year the exchange was saved because of concerns about the then-pending U.S. Supreme Court case as to whether federal subsidies would be preserved in federally-run state exchanges. It has been continually argued that the exchange was worthy of state spending because it would reduce premium costs.

Now, none of these justifications are valid. By upholding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in June, the Supreme Court has eliminated concern about subsidies. And, federal funding is no longer available. Finally, given that a June 26 report notes that insurance rates could rise by as much as 18 percent next year, HealthSource RI has obviously not fulfilled its promise to control rate increases.

So, Rhode Islanders must now decide if taxpayers and policyholders should fund yet another big-government boondoggle that is not working. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello was correct in insisting that the exchange cut its bloated budget; even still, why should Rhode Islanders pay for an inefficient bureaucracy when a less costly federal alternative is available, one that will not harm anyone in the process? Clearly, the feds can realize “efficiencies of scale” to run the exchange at a much lower cost than we could ever hope to achieve on our own here in Rhode Island.

With our state economy still in a shambles and with every budget dollar needed for repairs to bridges and roads, how can we justify spending on HealthSource RI? More disturbingly, there’s another even more dangerous agenda in play.

In 2014, there was a legislative effort to socialize virtually all of our state’s health-care industry — private and public — under the government’s exchange. This would have led to price controls and health-care rationing. Plus, the new director of HealthSource RI attempted, but failed, to advance a similar scheme in Vermont. Does anyone really trust our state government to run a major portion of our economy? Does anyone not believe that this effort will be revived by the progressive left?

Rhode Island is one of just 15 states that fully funded its own insurance exchange — and it did so by Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s executive order, after the General Assembly rejected the idea. As our center has researched, the Ocean State does not have a large enough tax or insurance base to justify its high operational costs.

More importantly, the free-market system must be preserved in Rhode Island. It is only open competition that can produce the affordable, high-quality health insurance that all Rhode Islanders desire. By eliminating costly insurance mandates and by allowing inter-state insurance sales, premiums can be dramatically reduced, making it far less costly when we choose to subsidize insurance for the neediest among us. 

It is time for lawmakers to save money for Rhode Islanders. We should join the vast majority of other states and let the feds run their own mandated ACA program.


 

Mike Stenhouse is CEO for the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, a free-market research and advocacy organization.

Statement: RI Budget’s New Tourism Tax Likely to Fail

STATEMENT
July 1, 2015

Promoting Tourism by Taxing Tourism is Misguided, Unenforceable
Will Seek Repeal of “Killing the Golden Goose” Provision

Providence, RI — With the FY-2016 budget now law in the Ocean State, one of its most under-reported and counter-productive provisions is a new tourism tax that is likely to backfire on the industry, according to the nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

Included in the budget are provisions that will levy new ‘sales’ taxes and compliancy red tape on local travel agents, in-state vacation rentals, short-term rental and vacation rental advertising platforms, and the online travel innovators that drive tens of thousands of global travelers to Rhode Island destinations each year. The $5.4 million in anticipated revenues is earmarked to pay for tourism board marketing.

“You don’t grow the state’s vital travel and tourism economy by taxing it. It’s a classic ‘killing the golden goose’ scenario,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “As our Center has advocated for years, sales taxes are a highly sensitive factor in driving consumer purchasing. It is doubtful that this new tax will yield anywhere near its revenue projections, leaving the tourism industry damaged and without its anticipated marketing revenues.”

The Center, the state’s leading free-market research and advocacy organization, also believes that many of the provisions are unenforceable. Altogether, this new tax scheme will not only fail to spark an economic rebirth, it could harm a pillar of the state’s economy. It will put Rhode Island at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring states which do not impose such taxes, and will lead to fewer visitors, less economic activity, and less overall tax revenue.

“The only communities and tourism boards to benefit from this aspect of Rhode Island’s budget will be those in, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire,” concluded Stenhouse.

The Center suggests this tax on tourism rentals should suffer the same eventual fate as the ill-fated Taylor Swift tax.

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.