STATEMENT: Governor Raimondo’s 2017 Budget Shows Special Interests on the Rise


February 3, 2016

2017 Proposed Budget Puts Priority on Government Favors

Everyday Rhode Islander becomes second class
More spending, more revenue, and more debt
Puts RI in the hands of Washington, D.C., priorities

Providence, RI — Anyone who thought Rhode Island had reached its peak for governing in favor of special interests learned from Governor Gina Raimondo’s budget, released last night, that a whole new level exists. The overarching assumption is now that a few connected insiders in the state government, in nonprofit groups, from private companies and investment firms, and from Washington, D.C., think tanks and agencies can and should map a course for our shared future and spend our money to make us get in line.

“Nearly every item is directly targeted toward a particular narrow group of recipients,” said Justin Katz, research director for the Center. “It’s the kind of budget a chief executive puts forward when she doesn’t trust the people of her state to make their own decisions.”

In ways small and large, the vision of the budget is what one might expect to be crafted in the halls of the progressive Brookings Institution, with its recent report funded by private interests (mainly Raimondo donors), and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which got its hooks into the Ocean State through the RhodeMap RI plan.

Despite a projected increase of $85 million in income and sales taxes, next year, the governor offers almost no broad-based tax reductions. In fact, she wants to add nearly $250 million in debt to the $300 million she wants to incur without voter approval for her RhodeWorks toll-and-borrow infrastructure program.

Everyday Rhode Islanders who do not fit the model are left paying more in taxes while insiders receive special tax incentives and other breaks, like the proposed fund to cut through RI’s burdensome fire and building permit process for “priority projects” approved by the government.

Another example: Rhode Islanders will find themselves with no relief from renewable energy surcharges in their energy bills, even as the governor proposes to tilt the scale in favor of pet “green” energy projects by giving them automatic property tax exemptions. Meanwhile, for property taxes on our homes, Raimondo’s budget seeks to extend the length of time before municipalities must asses what they are actually worth.

On the large scale, the governor’s budget would increase government spending by $310 million (3.6%) in the middle of this year, and carrying that amount into next year. She has even put forward a wish list of additional spending if revenue comes in higher than expected, possibly pushing the state budget over the $9 billion threshold.

Speaking to local news media, Governor Raimondo has been beating up on the straw man argument that cutting taxes would cure Rhode Island’s ills all by itself. Instead, her strategy is to keep Rhode Islanders at their current disadvantage when it comes to taxes and regulations while requiring anybody who seeks relief to bring their special requests to her collection of experts and bureaucrats.

Media Contact:
Justin Katz, Research Director
401.835.7156 |

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.