Rhode Island Covid-19 Help

Rhode Island COVID-19 Crisis: 30 Public Policy Solutions to Restore Financial and Health Security

In these trying times, with over one-hundred thousand Rhode Islanders recently laid-off, and unemployment rates that could soon reach 30%, common-sense public state-based policy can help mitigate the destructive economic impact of the Rhode Island Covid-19 crisis … and can help restore a sense of normalcy and financial security.

See the list below for the Center’s policy suggestions.

In response to this health crisis that is impacting our lives in so many ways, our state government’s actions to shut down commerce across many industries is inevitably having a crushing impact on small businesses, jobs, and family budgets… creating anxiety and fears among our populace.

On top of the major disruptions to our daily lives, our individual and societal peace of mind has deteriorated, with many Rhode Islanders concerned not just about their health, but also worried about their financial well-being. 

However, leading national voices from across the political spectrum – The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Governor of New York, and the President of the United States – have raised awareness about the need to restore economic activity as part of our nation’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis. 

As the federal government considers various assistance programs, it is vital that Rhode Island’s political leaders also play a positive role in restoring prosperity. It is a historical fact that economic depressions kill people, too… we must not let our Ocean State’s circumstances come to that.

Governor Raimondo has asked the business community for more time and patience as our state’s health care system is strengthened, before the “temporary,” yet major, restrictions on the private sector are lifted. 

The public policy solutions recommended in this paper include a number of smaller, “temporary” solutions that can be implemented – beginning now, while the larger state mandates remain in place – and that should remain in place until our state’s economy is fully recovered.

While the governor asks for the public’s trust, state leaders, likewise, must place trust in the power of the American people – business innovation and individual consumerism, guided by the free-market system – to be the driving force in lifting Rhode Island out of this severe economic crisis.

Specifically, the General Assembly must find a way to convene and govern –  and to consider emergency rescue legislation that balances the need to address the state’s budget with the need to bolster the budgets of families and businesses.

Rhode Island COVID-19 Recovery by #GovernmentDistancing. To aid in Rhode Island’s economic survival and eventual recovery – and to restore confidence about our future among the populace – the Center suggests that there are many ways our state government can take important and symbolic actions in alleviating some of these concerns about our individual and overall financial security. 

The common-sense ‘crisis recovery’ policy ideas recommended in this paper are designed to free-up individuals and employers in the private sector to be able to speed back to the peak employment and income-levels that we saw before the COVID-19 crisis. These solutions are especially beneficial to a state economy that is suffering catastrophic job losses as we have seen in Rhode Island.

Many states across America are aggressively taking or considering similar steps, and Rhode Island must not lag behind. By temporarily suspending certain taxes and regulations that hold back economic growth, by practicing what we call “government distancing,” political leaders can separate unnecessary government burdens from those suffering the most distress … and help clear the way for rapid economic recovery.

In late March, our Center published 10 initial pro-active policy recommendations. The Center continues to add to its list of policies, and we’re now up to 30. The newest suggestions are in bold, and policies that have been implemented are italicized. Explanations of the policies follow the list.

Business operations

  • Eliminate any state or local inspections required before re-opening a business that was temporarily closed due to COVID-19.
  • Allow businesses to fully expense capital investments in machinery and equipment.
  • Extended deadlines for commerce-related licensing.
  • Temporarily extending the deadlines for businesses to remit collected sales taxes to the state.
  • Temporary suspension of the corporate minimum tax.

Consumer assistance

  • Repeal bans on single-use plastic bags.
  • Repeal the ban on flavored vaping products.
  • Temporarily suspending Internet sales taxes.
  • To allow alcoholic beverages to leave restaurants when sold with a food take-out order.

Regulatory reform & occupational licensing

  • Relax all state and local regulations, including zoning, that would interfere with the ability to operate businesses out of the home.
  • Institute temporary “reciprocal” occupational licensing.
  • Eliminate sales and hotel taxes on people who offer short-term rentals.

Labor

  • Implement a three-month moratorium on the deduction of government union dues, leaving more money in the pockets of state and local employees.
  • Temporarily suspend prevailing wage laws.
  • Temporarily reducing Rhode Island’s minimum wage to the federal level of $7.25 per hour (with a temporary increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Civic

  • Develop a forum for public education, debate, and study of the state and federal constitutions and the response of our state and local governments to the COVID-19 crisis, perhaps as a precursor to a state Constitutional Convention.
  • Temporarily limit legal liability for volunteers and charitable organizations.

Budget

  • Implement a state Savings Reward Programs to reward state employees for saving taxpayer money through innovative or reengineered government processes.
  • Freeze all government hiring, even in cases of retirement and resignation, reallocating employees where they are most needed.
  • Eliminate all government positions that were vacant for at least six months prior to the COVID-19 shut-down.
  • Freeze all taxes, state and municipal, at current levels.

Infrastructure (Legacy and Future-Ready)

  • Adopt “dig once” and “one-touch make ready” policies. Implementing policies that increase cooperation between Internet service providers (ISPs) and state and local construction planners would enable the Ocean State to expand broadband communications more cheaply and quickly.

Education

  • Begin the process of comparing and analyzing districts’ effectiveness in implementing remote learning in (in and out of Rhode Island) for the development of best practices and other lessons learned.
  • Review state and local budgets to determine what money has been saved by closing school buildings and limiting services in order to create a fund to assist families with education-related expenditures.

Healthcare

  • Expand access to telemedicine services.
  • End surprise billing for patients.
  • Expanded scope-of-practice allowances.
  • Remove insurance laws that discourage the sale of short-term health insurance plans.
  • Waive regulation to allow medical professionals licensed in other states to practice in RI.
  • Repeal certificate of need laws.

Explanations

Already in Rhode Island, one of the Center’s early common-sense recommendations has been enacted:

  • To allow alcoholic beverages to leave restaurants when sold with a food take-out order. This will help many restaurants to maintain cash flow and better serve their customers.

For small businesses and their employees, it will be important to get as many people back to work at their normal shifts as soon as possible. However, the ramp-up to normal business conditions, and the associated revenues, may not be as fast the shut-down was. Therefore, as a short-term measure, the Center suggests:

  • Eliminate any state or local inspections required before re-opening a business that was temporarily closed due to COVID-19. Whether the inspection would have been due or overdue anyway or is related to the pandemic, Rhode Island needs its existing businesses to get up to speed, while adapting to new realities, as quickly as possible. Red tape does not make the cut.
  • Allow businesses to fully expense capital investments in machinery and equipment as they seek to rebuild, providing them with potentially critical 2020 tax relief.
  • Extended deadlines for commerce-related licensing by the Department of Business Regulation and other state agencies that have a hand in stringing red tape for businesses would help ensure existing small businesses remain legally operational.
  • Temporarily extending the deadlines for businesses to remit collected sales taxes to the state. This option would give many businesses additional near-term cash flow when it comes to compensating their employees, paying their rent, or covering other vital overhead expenses.
  • Temporary suspension of the corporate minimum tax, which imposes one more burden on individual looking to start a new business, or maintain their existing small business – for instance, as sole proprietors or limited partnerships – even if the businesses loses money.

Rhode Island consumers have been cooped up inside, often without their regular income. The state should help our families be as active as possible while giving businesses the benefit of their commerce:

  • Repeal bans on single-use plastic bags and other items. The COVID-19 virus and other germs can live on re-usable bags for many days, Rhode Island should repeal all state and municipal bans on single-use plastic bags, straws, and other items. (Maine, New York, and New Hampshire have taken action to roll back similar laws.)
  • Repeal the ban on flavored vaping products to restore choice to Rhode Island adults and to help this industry hire back the workers it was forced to lay-off in 2019.
  • Temporarily suspending Internet Sales Taxes. In March of 2029, the Center published a policy brief with a policy idea that would provide a financial incentive for Ocean Staters to work, shop, and eat at home as much as possible, as the government has either mandated or recommended. To encourage online commerce as a form of social-distancing, the Center recommended this policy. Consideration should be given as to whether this suspension should only apply to in-state purchases and deliveries.
  • To allow alcoholic beverages to leave restaurants when sold with a food take-out order. This will help many restaurants to maintain cash flow and better serve their customers.

Regulatory Reform & Occupational Licensing. For entrepreneurs or individuals looking to start a new career, or to engage in the “gig” economy, and to encourage them to re-enter the workforce as quickly as possible, it is vital that our Ocean State be a welcoming state in support of their desire to engage in meaningful work:

  • Relax all state and local regulations, including zoning, that would interfere with the ability to operate businesses out of the home. Even in the best of times, we are skeptical about the justification for imposing restrictions on people who are trying to advance our economy, improve our society, and support their families. In a time of economic crisis, our tolerance for restrictions should go way down.
  • Institute temporary “reciprocal” occupational licensing, so that licensed professionals in another state, who may be moving to our state to help with the crisis or to establish a new career, can immediately and legally work in their licensed field of expertise.
  • Eliminate sales and hotel taxes on people who offer short-term rentals, independently or through online services like AirBnB. This will encourage home-owners to develop new revenue streams for their households and will make our Ocean State a less expensive tourism destination for many during the vitally important upcoming summer season.

Labor Reforms. To decrease pressure on municipal and state budgets and to lessen the urge to increase taxes on Covid-19 devastated families and businesses:

  • Implement a three-month moratorium on the deduction of government union dues, leaving more money in the pockets of state and local employees. However important labor unions were in helping workers gain some of the benefit of economic booms in the last century, they represent another layer of bureaucracy in our economy. At the same time, the public sector has to share some of the burden of the oncoming recession. At a minimum, removing the government’s implicit subsidy of automatic dues deduction would allow state and local employees to make their own decisions about how their income can best be utilized during these unprecedented times.
  • Temporarily suspend prevailing wage laws that artificially drive up the cost of contracted services by state and local governments by requiring open-shop vendors to pay labor rates significantly higher than they normally would.
  • Temporarily reducing Rhode Island’s minimum wage to the federal level of $7.25 per hour. Our state’s hourly wage mandate of $10.50 is scheduled to rise to $11.50 on October 1st. By providing employers with more flexibility in hiring back their workforce, more Rhode Islanders can more quickly be put on the road to economic recovery. Consideration should be given to limiting this wage-suspension to apply only to newly created or revived positions.
    • Additionally, with government assuming further responsibility for aiding low-income families as we recover from this crises, the state should temporarily increase the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

The experience of the pandemic, and officials’ response to it, have put a spotlight on just how profound the decisions are that our society must make. Therefore, the state should encourage increased civic participation and development of voluntary civic organizations so neighbors can help their neighbors through these difficult times.

  • Develop a forum for public education, debate, and study of the state and federal constitutions and the response of our state and local governments to the COVID-19 crisis, perhaps as a precursor to a state Constitutional Convention. An educated population with a direct line for debate that will actually make a difference in how our state is governed will give Rhode Islanders an opportunity to determine the direction of their own state, articulating the assumptions under which our government was set up and determining which may no longer apply or have fallen by the wayside.
  • Temporarily limit legal liability for volunteers and charitable organizations that may wish to provide a helping hand during this crisis.

Regarding the 2021 budget process, and given the unpredictability of how quickly our state economy and government tax receipts will recover, it is vital that government live within its means, without placing additional burdens on an already distressed private sector. As New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, recently stated … his state government is not going to be able to deliver all of the services and programs it did before the crisis, and can only begin to do as actual government “receipts” dictate.

  • Implement a state Savings Reward Programs to reward state employees for saving taxpayer money through innovative or reengineered government processes. We know our state government is filled with smart, dedicated people, and they are in the best position to see how things can be changed for the better. Unfortunately, our system as it stands creates incentive to resist change, not advocate for it. This incentive structure must be reversed.
  • Freeze all government hiring, even in cases of retirement and resignation, reallocating employees where they are most needed. The governor has already prepared Rhode Islanders for difficult decisions in the coming months and years. One broad decision that can be made now is to reduce the size of the government that taxpayers must support.
  • Eliminate all government positions that were vacant for at least six months prior to the COVID-19 shut-down. If Rhode Island was getting along without certain government positions in good times, we cannot afford them during bad times. For those tasks that are more necessary in a crisis than they were before, existing personnel should be repurposed.
  • Freeze all taxes, state and municipal, at current levels to ensure that families and businesses, who have faced major income cut-backs of their own, are not forced to shoulder the burden of non-essential government spending.

For people to be able to get back to work and to create an economy that will be more resilient the next time there is a crisis, Rhode Island needs to improve its infrastructure, both in the old sense of roads and bridges and in the emerging sense of digital connectivity.

  • Adopt “dig once” and “one-touch make ready” policies. Implementing policies that increase cooperation between Internet service providers (ISPs) and state and local construction planners would enable the Ocean State to expand broadband communications more cheaply and quickly. The Ocean State has no resources to spare. As we spend money repairing and modernizing our roads, we cannot afford to miss the opportunity to advance the infrastructure of the future in a way that can adapt to changing technology.

With families’ learning the ins and outs of “distance learning,” our community has a new level of hands-on experience with education. We must take this opportunity to ensure that our struggling education system reforms to create an informed, job-ready, and resilient population.

  • Begin the process of comparing and analyzing districts’ effectiveness in implementing remote learning in (in and out of Rhode Island) for the development of best practices and other lessons learned. It is not to early to start gathering information from the districts and analyzing it to understand what has worked and what hasn’t.
  • Review state and local budgets to determine what money has been saved by closing school buildings and limiting services in order to create a fund to assist families with education-related expenditures. Our emergency response in education has, on the one hand, created a large network of school and administrative buildings that are not being operated for use and, on the other hand, shifted a substantial amount of the burden for education onto families, themselves. Our state should work to move resources from where they are not being used to where they can make the difference between keeping up and falling behind.

On the health insurance front, many people who have lost their jobs may also have lost their private health care coverage. Currently, Rhode Island’s onerous insurance regulations makes it impossible for provider to offer “short term” insurance plans, either forcing newly uninsured people into much more expensive government-improved plans, onto Medicaid, or to risk living without insurance (and subsequently being penalizing with a fee.)

To help individuals who may be in employment transition during this crisis, Rhode Island should:

  • Expand access to tele-medicine services by having RI file an 1135 waiver with the federal Center for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) to allow Medicaid patients the same access to tele-health services as Medicare recipients
    • Repeal any existing regulations restricting access to tele-health services
  • End surprise billing for patients by enacting a Georgia-type reform that prohibits medical providers from using third-party collection agencies to collect medical debt that was not informed up-front to patients
  • Expand scope-of-practice allowances for nurses, pharmacists, medical technicians, medical students, and childcare providers … such that they can perform necessary medical testing or care in their field of expertise or for which they may have received training [FL]
  • Remove insurance laws that discourage the sale of short-term health insurance plans, so that patients can be offered lower-cost insurance options from a broader array of providers.

Other health related policy ideas include:

  • Waive regulation to allow medical professionals licensed in other states to be licensed to practice or conduct tele-health services in Rhode Island as was done in Missouri.
  • Repeal Certificate of Need laws that restrict healthcare providers from acquiring advanced technologies, such as medical imaging devices. Such protectionist-driven laws must not become a barrier to Rhode Islanders receiving the the quality care they deserve.
RI 2019 budget

Governor’s 2019-20 Budget: The Rhode to Serfdom

Providence, RI — Instead of seeking to shape Rhode Island’s future with the proven ideals of a free-society, Governor Raimondo’s proposed 2019-2020 budget is a stunning departure from America’s core values and, instead, would put our state on a “Rhode to Serfdom,” according to the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

With the Ocean State doomed to lose a US Congressional seat because of its hostile tax, educational, and business environment, which chases away wealth, families, and businesses, the policies presented in the Governor’s budget would make matters far worse.

“Just yesterday, I attended a thoughtful lecture by the chief economist for JP Morgan Chase at an event hosted by the RI Society of CPAs. His message was that economic growth is the best path to achieve prosperity and to manage deficits … not raising taxes and not necessarily cutting spending,” commented Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “However, this Governor’s regressive budget points us 180 degrees in the opposite direction and would stifle any opportunity for growth. Ocean Staters are clearly being forced down a Rhode to serfdom.”

With new government-imposed health insurance mandates that will further burden already distressed families as well as employers who are already suffering from one of the worst business climates in the nation, and along with a bevy of new taxes and fees that will further restrain economic growth, the proposed budget takes a giant step backwards towards a centrally-planned society, where government controls more and more aspects of our lives. The entire country is thriving, economically, from reduced government intrusion into our lives, but these progressive-left policies would increase dependency on government.

The proposed Medicaid tax on businesses and the individual mandate are particularly egregious. Each would serve as yet another reason for large employers and families to stay away from Rhode Island. It is oppressive that the government would seek to punish employers for not compensating their workers how the government wants them to; or to punish individuals not being able to afford the high-cost insurance resulting from the government created Obamacare mandates.

“For the better part of a decade, the State has encouraged and bragged about the number of people enrolled in Medicaid with taxpayer funded ads, and now she wants to make businesses pay for it,” cynically question the Center’s research director, Justin Katz.

Equally disturbing, the budget contains no meaningful remedies to the many problems that plague our state, such as high taxes across the board, high energy and healthcare costs, and onerous regulatory burdens on job-producers.

“On top of her irresponsible new spending proposals, clearly designed to benefit special-interest unions, the reliance on SIN taxes to pay for these schemes will tear at the cultural fabric of our society,” continued Stenhouse. “The continued attacks against legal firearms owners and smokers, along with the unsustainable increase in overall government spending, with its immoral budget scoops, also points Rhode Island back towards a totalitarian form of government that I thought we were done with in America.”

For these reasons and more, Rhode Island suffers from an epidemic of people and businesses fleeing our state. “Maybe it’s time to build our own wall to keep people in,” joked Stenhouse earlier in the week.

The Center again calls on General Assembly leaders to reduce the state’s sales tax, citing existing law that requires such a rate-reduction if certain “internet” taxes are enacted. With the multitude of new sales taxes imposed in recent budgets, the Center maintains that we have essentially reached that legal threshold.

RI General Assembly Freedom Index

Download: Freedom Index 2012 Scorecard; legislator votes, bill explanations, and rankings ; Click here for the Media Release

Radio:  Stenhouse discusses Index on Dan Yorke radio show ; and on the Helen Glover show (@ the 13:00 minute mark)

The first-annual General Assembly Freedom Index by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity scores Ocean State lawmakers on their level of support for principles of freedom as proven by their votes on the floors of the House and Senate.

The index examines legislators’ votes in terms of their likely effect on the free market, the size and scope of government, the balance of residents’ interests against those of public employees and beneficiaries, and the constitutional structure of a divided government with limited power over the people whom it represents. The Center reviewed every bill that received a roll-call vote by the full membership of either chamber and selected 96 that fit its understanding of these criteria. (Companion bills only count once.)

The resulting scores give a detailed sense of each legislator’s priorities beyond a few high-profile issues.

The Center further divided the bills into five categories:

  • Tax & budget:  bills that affect the tax structure in Rhode Island and/or that relate to government expenditures, just driving or relieving the pressure on taxation
  • Regulatory environment: bills that make it more or less difficult to live and do business in the state by imposing regulations
  • Constitutional government: bills that affect the structure of the government, as well as the scope of government in its authority over residents’ lives
  • Public sector labor: bills related to the relationship between its employees and itself and the electorate
  • Education reform: bills that advance or impede the reform of the state’s public education system, in terms of both cost and quality

Most legislation has implications for more than one of these categories.  For the purposes of this index, we applied our subjective sense of the area of core effect and sorted the bills accordingly.  If, for example, a bill having to do with education seemed to us intended to secure the role of public employees, we classified that bill as Public Sector Labor, not Education Reform.

Download: Freedom Index 2012 Scorecardlegislator votes, bill explanations, and rankings

2012 Freedom Index Findings

Ninety-six (96) different pieces of legislation (counting companion bills once) were evaluated.  The Center judged 70 of them as having a negative effect on freedom.

The average legislator index score of -25.4 indicates that the General Assembly moved Rhode Island in the wrong direction, and that Rhode Islanders are less free than they were in 2011. This index underscores our Center’s view that the 2012 RI General Assembly did not positively address the dire business climate of our state.

Top and Bottom 10

House Senate
Top 10 Bottom 10 Top 10 Bottom 10
1 Costa 59.2 113 Bennett -46.0 1 Kettle 15.5 113 Tassoni -44.8
2 Gordon 58.7 112 Fox -45.3 2 Shibley 14.0 112 Lanzi -44.8
3 Newberry 42.0 111 Ajello -45.3 3 Moura 8.6 111 DaPonte -43.1
4 Chippendale 41.7 110 McNamara -45.3 4 Hodgson 5.2 110 Miller -42.0
5 Watson 33.5 109 Valencia -45.3 5 Maher 4.1 109 Lynch -42.0
6 Trillo 28.8 108 Blazejewski -45.3 6 Algiere -7.8 108 Perry -41.6
7 Morgan 15.3 107 Cimini -45.3 7 Pinga -12.1 107 Ruggerio -41.4
8 Ehrhardt 15.1 106 Silva -45.3 8 Bates -14.7 106 Goodwin -41.4
9 Reilly 13.2 105 Mattiello -44.6 9 Ottiano -17.0 105 McCaffrey -41.4
10 Palumbo 0.5 104 Ucci -44.6 10 Cote -17.7 104 Fogarty -41.4

 

General Assembly Freedom Index 2012 by Party

 

Other findings include;

  • Average House index of -24.1
  • Average Senate index of -27.9
  • Average Democrat index of -33.5
  • Average Republican index of 16.5
  • Average Regulatory Environment index of -49.0
  • Average Tax & Budget index of -26.0
  • Average Constitutional Government index of -9.1
  • Average Public Sector Labor index of 16.7
  • No bills directly related to Education Reform were scored in this index

 

General Assembly Freedom Index 2012 and Category by Chamber and Party

 

Tax & Budget Category, Top and Bottom 10

House Senate
Top 10 Bottom 10 Top 10 Bottom 10
1 Newberry 68.8 75 Silva -67.2 1 Kettle 44.8 38 Pichardo -59.5
2 Chippendale 68.8 74 Bennett -62.5 2 Shibley 44.8 37 Lynch -54.3
3 Watson 68.0 73 Fox -62.5 3 Hodgson 44.8 36 Crowley -54.3
4 Trillo 67.2 72 Ajello -62.5 4 Moura 31.0 35 Tassoni -51.7
5 Costa 66.4 71 McNamara -62.5 5 Maher 24.1 34 Lanzi -51.7
6 Gordon 66.4 70 Valencia -62.5 6 Algiere 17.2 33 DaPonte -51.7
7 DaSilva 54.7 69 Blazejewski -62.5 7 Felag 10.3 32 Miller -51.7
8 Morgan 43.8 68 Cimini -62.5 8 Pinga 10.3 31 Perry -51.7
9 Reilly 43.8 67 Mattiello -62.5 9 Bates 10.3 30 Ruggerio -51.7
10 Lima 43.8 66 Ucci -62.5 10 Ottiano 10.3 29 Goodwin -51.7

 

Regulatory Environment Category, Top and Bottom 10

House Senate
Top 10 Bottom 10 Top 10 Bottom 10
1 Gordon 66.9 75 Mattiello -66.9 1 Hodgson -18.0 38 Miller -76.3
2 Costa 55.2 74 Tarro -66.9 2 Kettle -23.1 37 Tassoni -74.4
3 Watson 52.2 73 Naughton -66.9 3 Shibley  -23.1 36 Lanzi -74.4
4 Chippendale 27.2 72 Corvese -66.9 4 Moura   -23.1 35 Lynch -74.4
5 Newberry 23.5 71 Bennett -64.7 5 Maher -31.4 34 Perry -74.4
6 Trillo 17.6 70 Fox -64.7 6 Bates -33.3 33 Ruggerio -74.4
7 Ehrhardt  15.4 69 Ajello -64.7 7 Algiere  -35.9 32 Goodwin -74.4
8 Reilly 0.0 68 McNamara -64.7 8 Pinga -41.7 31 McCaffrey -74.4
9 Morgan -7.4 67 Valencia -64.7 9 Lombardo -43.0 30 Fogarty -74.4
10 MacBeth   -7.4 66 Blazejewski -64.7 10 Cote -43.6 29 Sosnowski -74.4

 

Constitutional Government Category, Top and Bottom 10

House Senate
Top 10 Bottom 10 Top 10 Bottom 10
1 Costa 61.2 75 Hearn -31.0 1 Kettle 29.7 38 DaPonte -29.1
2 Gordon 38.8 74 Jacquard -25.0 2 Shibley 24.3 37 Perry -19.6
3 Chippendale 36.2 73 MacBeth -22.4 3 Moura 18.9 36 Tassoni -18.9
4 Newberry 32.8 72 Bennett -19.8 4 Maher 18.9 35 Lanzi -18.9
5 Morgan 12.9 71 Hull -19.0 5 Pinga 6.1 34 Miller -18.9
6 Palumbo 6.0 70 Fox -17.2 6 Cote 6.1 33 Lynch -18.9
7 Flaherty 6.0 69 Ajello -17.2 7 Sheehan -2.0 32 Ruggerio -18.9
8 DeSimone 5.2 68 McNamara -17.2 8 Ottiano -4.1 31 Goodwin -18.9
9 Trillo 4.3 67 Valencia -17.2 9 Hodgson -8.1 30 McCaffrey -18.9
10 Schadone 3.5 66 Blazejewski -17.2 10 Algiere -8.1 29 Fogarty -18.9
(Note: Insufficient votes were cast in the Education Reform and Public Sector Labor categories for meaningful comparisons.)

Index Overview

The Center selected legislative bills for inclusion in the Freedom Index if they were deemed to have an effect on free-market, small-government, or constitutional principles, with each bill assigned a positive or negative weighting based on the criteria listed below. Weighted points for each bill were given to each legislator based on his or her roll-call vote on it.

Each legislator’s final Freedom Index was calculated as his or her score’s percentage of the total possible points. A positive score indicates a 2012 voting record that generally protected individual and economic freedoms, while a negative score reflects the opposite.

Disclaimer: It should be noted that the total Freedom Index score generated for each legislator is a direct reflection of the perspective of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity when it comes to the weighting of each bill. The Freedom Index is not an absolute measure of a legislator’s merit and does not constitute any endorsement or individual criticism. The Freedom Index is a tool designed for general research and for accountability, giving voters some quantitative metrics for their own assessments as to their elected legislators’ performance. 

Methodology

1) Determine weighting: Each selected bill received a weight ranging from +3 to -3, as determined by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity. Negative weights indicate legislation that creates or expands an agency, government program/function, or tax; creates new regulatory burdens; is hostile to constitutional principles; or otherwise conflicts with the principles that guide the Center. Positive factors were assigned to bills in line with those principles. Companion bills in the House and Senate were weighted identically. To determine the weightings, the Center requested reviews of all chosen legislation from a half dozen engaged Rhode Islanders with similar principles and combined the range of results for a final weighting.

2) Determine vote: Each legislator received a +1 or -1 vote factor, depending on whether he or she voted FOR or AGAINST a particular bill, respectively. If a legislator did not vote on a bill, he or she received a +0.25 if the bill passed or a -0.25 if the bill failed. Legislators who abstained from voting received a +0.75 or a -0.75 vote factor depending on if the bill passed or failed.

3) Calculate weighted vote: Multiplying the weighting factor and the vote factor produced a weighted vote score for each legislator for each bill.

4) Calculate the legislator score:  The cumulative score for all bills for each legislator determined that legislator’s overall score.

5) Calculate Freedom Index: Dividing each legislator’s total score by the maximum possible for the appropriate chamber provided his or her Freedom Index, or a percentage of the best possible score he or she could have achieved. In 2012, the “perfect” scores are 106 for the House and 116 for the Senate.

For example, consider a bill that would increase the regulatory burden significantly in Rhode Island and that the Center therefore weighted as a -2. Legislator A voted for the bill. His or her weighted vote would be calculated as follows: -2 x 1 = -2. Conversely, the weighted vote for Legislator B, who voted against the bill, would be: -2 x -1 = 2.

If Legislator A, in the House chamber, earned a total legislator score of -33, his or her Freedom Index would be calculated as: -33 ÷ 106 x 100 =  -31.1.  If Legislator B in the Senate had a total score of +23, his or her Freedom Index would be calculated as: 23 ÷ 116 x 100 = 19.8.

To rank the legislators, the Center sorted them by their Freedom Index scores and then, in the cases of ties, by their scores in each category, in the following order: Regulatory Environment, Tax & Budget, Constitutional Government, Public Sector Labor, and Education Reform. When legislators’ results were still identical, the Center adjusted them in order of their apparent stature and power within their chambers.

Criteria

In determining each bill’s weighting, the following questions were considered:

  • Does the bill create or eliminate an agency, program, or function of government?
  • Does it give the government new or expanded power to prohibit or restrict activities in the free market? Examples may include licensure and other restrictions on legal business practices.
  • Is it unconstitutional or does it do violence to our concepts of federalism or separation of powers? Does it restrict property, speech, gun, or other constitutionally recognized rights or freedoms? Conversely, does it restore balance between the state and federal government, resume state authority over an issue under the 10th Amendment, or remove restrictions on constitutionally protected rights?

Other considerations were also brought into question:

  • Does the bill redistribute wealth or use tax policy or other incentives to reward specific interest groups with special favors or perks? Conversely, does it eliminate special favors and perks in the tax code or public policy?
  • Does it perform a function that can and should be performed by the private sector or restore functions to the private sector?
  • Does it grow or shrink the regulatory scope of an agency?
  • Does it directly or indirectly create/reduce taxes, fees, or other assessments?
  • Does it increase or decrease control of the private sector through rules, regulation, or statute?
  • Does it increase or decrease long-term debt or override or restore statutory or constitutional protections against long-term debt?
  • Does it give or reduce special benefits for government employees or politicians?
  • Does it promote government transparency and openness or does it restrict access to information that should be in the public domain?

It should be noted that the complexity not only of the law but of political theory in general can make assessments of the sort described above subjective and very difficult. People reviewing the index should consider the results to be the best judgment of the Center, given our collected experience and expertise.

Download: Freedom Index 2012 Scorecardlegislator votes, bill explanations, and rankings

R.I. Creating an Expressway to Dependency

The Issue. Rhode Island is leading the nation in the advancement of a larger entitlement culture via its planned expansion of social services through a health benefits exchange, a component of the controversial federal healthcare law. When collecting detailed personal financial and household information from individuals seeking health insurance support, the state intends to proactively enroll participants in other state programs for which they are eligible. Will this create and expanded culture of dependency?

Statement from CEO, Mike Stenhouse. “This is an extreme case of misguided public policy. The expansion of government and special interest control over our personal healthcare decisions, along with the culture of dependency being freely advocated by this administration, should be viewed as an assault on our deeply held American value of self-reliance.

“Imagine turning to the RI health benefits portal because your employer cancelled your insurance and finding yourself on a government-created expressway to a life of dependency. Wouldn’t we all be better off, instead, if the state encouraged residents to become independent, productive members of society?”

Related LinksMike Stenhouse discusses the ‘Dependency Portal’ on the Helen Glover radio show … click hereDependency Portal Pieces in Place;

What the Center is calling a “dependency portal.”  The dependency portal is a not-so-hidden goal of Rhode Island’s version of the health benefits exchanges described in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, commonly known as ObamaCare).

Although the final design has not been developed in specific detail, the idea of the exchanges is to enable healthcare consumers to use a government Web site to review their available options for insurance and to determine their eligibility for public subsidies.  Most likely, a series of Web-based forms will ask the user for a variety of highly personal information regarding health, income, and family circumstances in order to determine what health plans and public assistance amounts he or she is eligible for.

Whether such information will be requested of all residents who seek to use the site or only of those explicitly seeking subsidies remains an open question.

The exchange will become a dependency portal when other forms of public assistance — from food stamps to cash-payment welfare to child-care subsidies — are integrated into the system and promoted to the exchange user based on information that he or she provides while seeking health coverage — perhaps automatically enrolling people with the merest expression of consent.

At a recent press conference, Rhode Island Health and Human Services Secretary Steven Costantino referred to this “hidden element” of the exchanges as “one-stop shopping.”

Why is that bad? As a free market think tank, the Center is certainly not opposed to practices that encourage efficiency and the use of technology to improve the access that customers and clients have to services. Information technology, in particular, has empowered individuals to accomplish easily and inexpensively tasks that once required expert consultants.

From a business perspective, the Internet and the proliferating technologies that use it, now including smartphones and tablets, smooth the path from a potential customer’s initial interest all the way to final purchase.  Technology enhances businesses’ ability to market and sell their products and services, and they seek to accomplish those ends in order to grow their revenue and expand their market share.

That model is not appropriate to government in dispensing taxpayer-funded services.

In the private sector, bundling of services has become commonplace, and it is easy to understand why companies would pursue the strategy.  Think of the merging technologies of television, Internet, and telephone; it makes sense for a company with an advantage in, say, television, to use various marketing techniques, such as reduced-price packages, cross advertising, and one-stop shopping, to gain an edge in other markets.

However, the public clearly has a sense that these methods can go too far.  Indeed, at the turn of the millennium, the federal government sued Microsoft on the grounds that it was hindering competition by using its operating system dominance (with Windows) to gain an insurmountable advantage in the Web browser market (with Internet Explorer).

In the case of government, all of the same incentives exist for the organization to expand its reach.  The difference is that government has three inherent competitive advantages:

  1. In its ability to simply confiscate money to pay for, or at least subsidize, its services
  2. In the fact that the people whom it entices to its services are not paying their full cost
  3. In its control of the marketplace by means of regulation

Over time, government programs are therefore less and less “public services” that taxpayers agree to support through the people whom they elect and more and more bureaucratic offerings that use the enrollment of some citizens as justification for claiming more authority and confiscating more money from others.

One can see evidence of this intention in the process by which Rhode Island’s exchange was initiated.  In the face of (to be mild) public uncertainty about the PPACA, the Democrat president and Congress pushed it through.  It creates financial incentive for states to build the exchanges (by making taxpayers from other states pay for it), and it hands an astonishing amount of policy discretion to the unelected Secretary of Health and Human Services.

In Rhode Island, Governor Lincoln Chafee broke with common understanding of separation of powers in order to create the exchange by means of executive order, committing the state to pay for the site’s maintenance once it is operational.  Similarly, the state executive branch has simply determined to agree to a related Medicaid waiver, expanding free healthcare services in the state and adding to its expenses.  No legislative input; no public hearings; in short, no public statement of agreement with the programs being developed in the people’s name.

As the government exchanges claim increasing shares of the market nationally, unelected state and federal officers will be authorized to determine everything from minimum benefits to price controls to payment schedules.  The board that Governor Chafee appointed to initiate the exchange illustrates that special interests will have an outsized role, as well.

With the addition of other welfare programs to the mix, it will be even more difficult for the people of the state to change course.

What it means for you. Losing control of activities done in the public’s name may not be the most dire consequence of the dependency portal approach.  Rather, the fatal part of the trap is the fast lane to a culture of universal reliance on government and a pervasive sense of entitlement.

Whenever the topic of welfare arises, conversation turns toward those who “know how to work the system” and thus become the fabled “welfare queens.”  For them, incentives toward good behavior have been reduced or reversed, and democracy has devolved into an exchange of political power for handouts.

The real danger of the dependency portal is that it sets up a chute so that previously self-reliant Rhode Islanders will increasingly fall into an entitlement existence.  Why else would the exchanges offer health care subsidies to a family of four with income of $92,200?

Just as technology has simplified tasks that once required expert consultants, the dependency portal will make “working the system” a simple matter of clicking a few buttons.

Tracing the progress of the portal in Rhode Island. RI Health & Human Services Secretary Steven Costantino, Health Benefits Exchange Director Christine Ferguson, and Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts describe Rhode Island’s nation-leading steps toward the dependency portal (June 28, 2012):

 

Elaboration on why Rhode Island and the United States should resist the pull toward dependency portals:

RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity first identifies the dependency-portal dynamic as one reason to reject the health benefit exchange and the Medicaid expansion:

The pieces needed to turn the exchange into a dependency portal are being put into place:

RI officials acknowledge intention to implement Medicaid expansion, without any indication of legislative or public input:

Documents related to the dependency portal begin to reveal the direct connection between those pushing the concept and those involved with Rhode Island’s health benefits exchange:

The dependency portal in concert with eliminated work requirements for welfare may mark the return of the “welfare queen” and a “majority coalition” for big-government activists:

Documents. The federal government and national non-profits describe the dependency portal and the related “express lane eligibility”:

RI out-Migration to border Counties in MA and CT

County Out-Migration Should Be Alarm to Municipalities

For nearly a decade, taxpayers have been leaving Rhode Island. With cities and towns facing wave after wave of difficult decisions, a change of policy course is critical. Between 2003 and 2010, the net migration out of the state has left Rhode Island with 24,455 fewer income-tax-paying households with a total of $1.2 billion of annual income.

Governor Should Tread Slowly on Health Care Exchanges

(see the ProJo OpEd version here)

The Governor’s office should exercise caution and search for answers to important questions before rubber-stamping the health insurance exchange ‘executive order’ recommended by a special panel. President Obama’s controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) “Exchanges” may simply be too risky for RI.

We encourage a serious public debate on this very important issue before bypassing the normal legislative process, which failed to pass related legislation. The debate should focus on whether or not now is the appropriate time to move forward with a PPACA exchange, especially considering the high associated risks and potential alternative paths. Our state has time, and should take the time to act prudently.

The PPACA federal law is unstable, politically and legally. In August, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that PPACA exchanges, which would create an individual mandate to purchase health insurance, is unconstitutional. Also, one implication of the recent national debt-ceiling debate may mean that millions or even billions of dollars designated to support PPACA would be at risk if the debt super-committee can’t come up with the required spending cuts.

There are many arguments and questions about why RI should not rush into implementing this controversial system at this time:

  • Federal policy is in a precarious state of flux: The President announced that he favored significant changes to his health care reform, providing even more uncertainty about future changes from Washington. PPACA is also under attack by Congress, with open threats to deny funding or repeal it. There is concern that if RI implements a PPACA exchange that the federal government, would not be able to provide the federal funds that we may anticipate. What happens if PPACA is ruled unconstitutional and we create an exchange, does RI have to assume these cost commitments?
  • Federal health care legislation may be unconstitutional:  PPACA has been ruled unconstitutional by federal courts in Florida and Virginia as well as by the 11th Circuit. This legal uncertainty underscores the danger of RI risking the time, expense, and potential that PPACA could be thrown out as unconstitutional. The US Supreme Court is expected to hear and rule on this case by June of 2012. Also, if a new administration were to be elected later in 2012, it is certain that it would spell doom for PPACA. Recent polls suggest that a 2nd Obama term is anything but guaranteed. Is it sound public policy to push ahead with the Exchange when we don’t know if we can legally require everyone to participate?
  • Impact on businesses. Have we evaluated how businesses will react? I have spoken with many business owners who believe that PPACA will increase premium costs to the point where it may be more prudent for them to dump health coverage for their employees and pay the federal fine. How would this make RI a more competitive state for business?
  • Federal Strings. RI is again chasing federal funds, which bring along a multitude of federal mandates, which, in turn, are highly likely to change … unpredictably so. Just recently PPACA was changed to mandate that all “exchange” insurance policies must now cover birth control contraceptives. And, as recently as April 5, 2011 Congress passed changes that rewrote the way health exchange subsidies will be paid for. Already, the law’s foundation is crumbling among other states: in August, Kansas returned a large federal grant wanting out of the law and its mandates. Why should we race to put RI in the same position?
  • Our state cannot afford to waste time and money on this risky endeavor. With all of the problems our state confronts and the multitude of other reforms we must enact; and when PPACA federal funding may never be provided, and while there is so much legal uncertainty why should we risk wasting critical resources on this issue?
  • Government vs Free Market: the very idea of a government controlled exchange is antithetical to our nation’s historical free-market principles, which is the only proven way to consistently deliver a quality service at the lowest possible rate. A true free-market “is” an exchange in itself! Do we even know if RI’s small risk pool can effectively support an exchange? State’s rights issues also come into play.

Since states are not required to implement an exchange until 2014, why shouldn’t we hold off making these decisions until after the uncertainty around PPACA has played itself out? Dozens of other states have held off.

We all want lower prices for good health insurance. Instead of conforming to a federally controlled system, Rhode Island should consider regional Health Insurance Compacts and expanded Health Savings Accounts, which would allow free-market competition to reduce prices and to provide consumers with more choices. Such compacts would authorize out-of-state insurers to compete for business, in much the same way that we purchase auto and property insurance. These free-market models would create larger markets, more competition, more choices, and lower prices.

Right now, PPACA is a major headache for the Obama administration. Why should we make it Rhode Island’s headache as well?

Mike Stenhouse is CEO of the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

State Pension Reform – RI has a way to go to catch up with other states

In 2010 and 2011 (39) US states enacted some form of public pension reform. Rhode Island is one of those states, but we acted in only one of the measured categories in this report.

Restoring Competitiveness to Rhode Island

Our RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has a bold, new vision to restore greatness to the Ocean State by making it the most dramatic turn-around state in the nation. In the coming months, our Center for Freedom will release a detailed “Prosperity Agenda” for Rhode Island: a game-changing, new agenda that will return competitiveness to our economic and educational institutions, backed by insightful research.

Commentary by Mike Stenhouse

Rhode Island is a last place team. Remember earlier this year when the Red Sox were in the cellar? In Rhode Island many of our citizens are resigned to doom. In contrast, Red Sox nation was outraged.

If only RI citizens were like Red Sox fans.In the competition for people, wealth and business, our Ocean State simply is not competitive with other states. Yet we find little leadership from our public officials to try to improve our lot and far too few jeers from the public. Many reform advocates debate less important issues. Nobody seems to be focused on winning!

With the recent budget debate and with the current pension debate, we can clearly see why RI never improves its standing.

The recently passed state budget and the pension solutions currently being discussed will only serve to make Rhode Island LESS competitive. We debated balancing our budget and how to raise enough revenues to do so. Now we are debating how to raise enough revenues to pay off our massive unfunded pension liabilities. We debate the merits of trading this tax for that tax. We debate how to keep funding our past promises or how to pass on costs to this group or that group. We keep debating each issue as a one-off item, yet no one is talking about improving our state’s competitiveness, and actually winning again.

And, predictably, we always seem to end up in the same place … last place. Yet there are many who defend the status quo and resist reform.

WE NEED A WINNING STRATEGY. For Rhode Island, that strategy must include a dramatic reduction in taxes along with dramatic reductions in spending. There is no other way to remain competitive.

We all know that RI ranks at or near the bottom in far too many areas when it comes to education and the economy. Our perpetually poor rankings prove the utter failure of the status quo. Yet, we cling to what we know, we put the same players back on the field with the same rules, and we seem pleased with ourselves if we can just figure out how not to appear to worsen the situation.

But we are indeed worsening the situation. We know now that our current oppressive tax and regulatory structure is driving people and wealth out of our state. Recent headlines about our education are equally disturbing. To build a sustainable economy, we need educated, productive citizens and capital. To successfully compete with other states, we need more of both. Maintaining the status quo only means we will continue to hemorrhage even more of these valuable resources.

How would raising taxes on the rich, or on property owners, as many suggest, grow our struggling economy?

Even the Governor half-agreed, stating that raising taxes on the wealthy would cause them to move. True. But we also know that middle-class Rhode Islanders will also migrate to other states if they are over taxed. It’s the same, I would guess, with businesses and consumer purchasing.

Raising taxes – any taxes – in order to balance our budget or pay off unfunded debts will only serve to make us LESS competitive! We will continue to lose citizens and money; and we will squander yet another opportunity to improve our chance of winning. Balancing the budget and paying off debt is the wrong game.

THE GAME SHOULD BE ABOUT HOW TO IMPROVE OUR STATE’S COMPETIVENESS AND HOW TO WIN BACK PEOPLE AND WEALTH!

Were Red Sox fans silent when their team was in last place? Would they be mollified if the team bragged that it balanced its books? Would they really care how much players were paid? Would they be satisfied if we merely shuffled the same old lineup? Would they accept increased ticket prices for a perpetual last place team? These wouldn’t matter much if the team was winning. But this is exactly what our public officials want us to accept … pay more money to remain in the cellar.

In RI, little else should matter unless we grow the economy and reform education for the prosperity of our citizens and the future of our children. The primary standard should be whether or not we are improving our competiveness with other states … not balancing the budget.

As long as we continue to play by rules that decrease our competitiveness and without a clear winning vision from our leadership, RI will continue to be a cellar-dweller. Even if our economy recovers to some small degree, it is likely that other states’ economies will improve even more.

In the sports world, where competition and free market principles mainly prevail, a last place team will embark on a “rebuilding” strategy, where it’s “out with the old” and “in with the new”. This may mean a few years of potential struggle while the “new” strategy takes hold, but when it does, if the plan is designed properly, the situation will improve dramatically.

Trouble is, in Rhode Island, we don’t seem to have many strategic thinkers with the courage to admit that long term reform can only happen with some near term pain. And you won’t hear much from our state’s fans (we the citizens). Nor do we find cutting commentary from the media demanding a better team or an improved standing. Imagine the Boston Globe endorsing a perennial last place Red Sox team that refused make wholesale changes.

Red Sox nation demanded a winner and the Red Sox successfully broke its “curse” by winning two world championships! It took the vision of a young and talented GM. The state of RI must do the same … but we are left to wonder where we will find that kind leadership and that kind of public outrage.

If only we could bring out the Red Sox fan inside each of us!

Our RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity is a “fan” of the state of Rhode Island. We hope you will join in us in refusing to remain silent. Not only do we demand a bold, new ‘winning’ strategy for our state, but we intend to map out the initial cornerstone reforms that should be part of that strategy.

For Earth Day, “No TCI Gas Tax” Letter Sent to Governor McKee by 12 Advocacy Organizations and Citizens Groups

Massive Burdens on Businesses & Families with No Environmental Benefit

   

Providence, RI – On Earth Day 2021 (April 20-22), a coalition of 12 advocacy and citizens groups joined the Center’s prior call on Governor Daniel McKee to withdraw Rhode Island from the controversial TCI Gas Tax regional compact, ostensibly designed to reduce carbon emissions, but, which in reality, is nothing more than a pure money grab.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, authors of the open letter, thanked McKee for his prior voiced support for the small business community. The coalition’s letter went on to point out how artificial new fuel taxes, the goal of the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI), would create large and unnecessary costs on the private sector – for no environmental benefit.

With a TCI Gas Tax bill expected to be submitted soon, after former Governor Raimondo signed-on to the TCI scheme in 2020, the 12 group coalition also called on the current Governor to pledge to veto any related legislation.

“The dishonesty of TCI proponents is alarming,” claimed the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. “They falsely claim they can achieve major emissions reductions with a minor gas tax. In reality, the multi-year plan would raise fuel taxes by 40 to 50 cents per gallon … and would do virtually nothing to reduce global carbon emissions.”

The letter cited studies and public polls demonstrating that the highly regressive gas tax, and the projected $1200 per family cost, are highly unpopular among the public. A petition opposing TCI has already generated over 10,000 emails to state lawmakers.

The coalition letter also discusses the competitive advantage the Ocean State would enjoy regionally by not joining the TCI compact and keeping fuel taxes where they are.

The letter concludes it appeal to McKee by stating: “Withdrawing our state from TCI would be a terrific first-step and would send a strong signal that you are serious about improving our state’s dismal business climate.”

In March, the Center unilaterally called on McKee to withdraw from TCI. After receiving strong support, this larger coalition effort was put together.

The entire letter and a listing of all 12 coalition signatories can be found here.

Executive powers

Flanders, Stenhouse Provide Testimony Calling for an End to Unchecked Executive Branch Emergency Powers

“Appalled” that a state Senator is a “big fan” of unconstitutional EOs

Providence, RI – Former state Supreme Court Justice and board member Robert Flanders, as well as CEO Mike Stenhouse, provided testimony on behalf the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity at yesterday’s Senate Oversight Committee hearing on the emergency Executive Orders issued during the current pandemic.

“I’d like to thank Chairman DiPalma for holding this important hearing,” commented Stenhouse. “However, I was very disappointed in the lack of interest in providing balanced government by most of the other committee members.”

Former judge Flanders submitted written testimony which, in part, stated: “Rhode Island’s Emergency Powers Act should be legislatively reformed to provide for more democratic emergency governance, along with a re-examination of the statutory parameters of the Governor’s emergency powers and the related roles of the legislative and judicial branches of state government.”

Flanders, whose testimony listed many areas of concern regarding executive over-reach and potentially unconstitutional executive orders, has also publicly stated that “there is no pandemic exception to the Constitution.”

Senate Oversight Committee Hearing on Executive Powers

Stenhouse, in his verbal testimony (beginning at the 50:35 mark), firmly stated that he was “appalled” that a sitting Senator (Stephen Archambault) openly averred (40:45) at the hearing that he was a “big fan” of an unconstitutional executive order described by  an attorney from the executive branch. The Senator would later double-down on his absurd assertion (58:45).

Stenhouse decried the legislative branch’s lack of oversight of the executive branch – especially the publicly transparent and vigorous debate that would accompany such oversight – during the still-ongoing declared state of emergency. He called for reforms that would require General Assembly approval to extend emergency Executive Orders beyond their initial 30-day period.

Stenhouse also listed 10 states that have already passed or were moving similar legislation, after it became clear that existing law in many states provided too much unchecked power to the executive branch during states of emergency:

Kentucky, Utah, and Ohio have already passed related laws; while West Virginia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Texas, North Carolina, and Indiana are expected to pass laws or constitutional amendments. These legislative actions, generally and among other items, would place time limits on executive emergency powers and would require the legislature to extend emergency orders by joint resolution.

Only one committee-member, Senator Jessica De La Cruz, expressed support for limiting emergency executive powers by requiring legislative approval.

How the Ocean State Should Spend Its Federal COVID Relief Funds

Background

The old saying goes, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” but advocates of the left-wing’s modern monetary theory (MMT) want you to think there is.

Under traditional economic theory, every government dollar spent or borrowed must be eventually paid back, leading to upward pressure on taxes imposed on the citizenry. But according to this more-recent socialist monetary theory, federal governments that control their own currencies, as does America, should be free to print (without backing) and spend as much money as they desire to fulfill their political and societal goals, without regard to debt levels or offsetting funding via tax and other revenue receipts. According to today’s Left, there can be as many free lunches as they can possibly imagine.

In reality, the MMT economic approach is a myth, albeit a popular one. As has resulted in virtually every socialist country, most recently Venezuela, this approach to wanton government spending will necessarily lead to disaster over the mid-to-long term: hyper-inflation and massive devaluation of the core currency … and inevitable economic despair.

But most politicians are concerned only with the short-term time-period of their political careers.

Since states cannot print their own money out of thin air and must operate under a balanced budget, leftist MMT advocates have devised a scheme whereby the federal government will print trillions in “fake money,” spend some on what it desires, and then distribute the rest to states and localities to spend as they wish.

While anyone with an economic background knows that this irresponsible approach will eventually backfire, the illusion of a free lunch will become widely promulgated… and will be highly popular among an unsuspecting citizenry.

Localities and states across America will soon be receiving a significant windfall in millions and billions of dollars of perceived free money from the federal government under the guise of COVID relief funds. How to productively spend that money is a public policy question that every governor, mayor, town or county manager, and legislative council will soon have to consider.

The Federal Rules

According to the relevant language in the actual federal legislation, there are generally authorized “uses” for the funds, along with a few specifically barred uses. State and local government will have approximately two-and-one-half years to spend the money, with all funds to be spent by December 31, 2024.

The American Rescue Plan Act provides $350 billion to state and local governments, with $219.8 billion distributed to states, territories and tribal governments and $130.2 billion for local governments.

In general, the money is authorized to be used for:

  • Costs incurred to respond to the pandemic emergency or its negative economic effects, including assistance to households, small businesses, nonprofits, and affected industries (such as tourism, travel, and hospitality)
  • Premium pay for eligible workers who do essential work
  • Replacing lost tax revenue relative to revenue collected in the most recent fiscal year
  • Investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure

States are expressly prohibited from using the funds to directly or indirectly offset a reduction in net tax revenue during the covered period (March 1, 2021, through December 31, 2024) or to delay the imposition of any tax or tax increase. States are also prohibited from using the funds to make deposits into pension funds. Notably, local governments are also prohibited from using the funds to make deposits into pension funds. However, local governments are not prohibited from using the funds for tax relief.

Most of the data and analysis in this report was originally developed in partnership with Marc Joffe, Senior Policy Analyst at Reason Foundation, and Michael Lucci, Senior Policy Advisor at State Policy Network.

National Highlights

  • State and local governments are expected to experience $140 billion in revenue losses from 1Q20 through 2Q21.
  • Congress has already allocated approximately $400 billion in state and local aid.
  • State and local governments started the pandemic recession with over $200 billion in rainy day and other fund balances.
  • States are incurring additional expenditures due to increased Medicaid enrollment. The costs are more than offset by temporarily increased federal Medicaid support, but states are prohibited from removing ineligible individuals from the program.
  • Additional funds to state and local governments are not needed. Instead, Congress should focus on policies that will spur economic recovery.

General Risks to State and Local Governments

Additional federal aid could harm the long-term financial health of states by:
Overwhelming state and local governments with more money than they can effectively spend.

  • Making it more difficult for states to maintain balanced budgets in the future.
  • Incentivizing states to rely on the federal government for financial support in future crises instead of developing their own fiscal responsibility.
  • Making spending decisions based on directives from DC instead of the local needs of constituents and communities.
  • Funding new and expanded programs that require future tax increases to sustain.
  • Enlarging state and local governments to a point where they cannot adjust accordingly and become a larger portion of the economy while the private sector contracts.

Rhode Island Federal Aid

The latest revenue projections show that states are not experiencing as much of a shock from lost revenue as anticipated. The projected $140 billion in lower revenue is more than made up for with approximately $400 billion in various forms of federal aid to state and local governments. In fact, 48 out 50 states received more federal aid than anticipated revenue lost, and Rhode Island falls into this category.

State and local governments will now need to adjust their finances for a different economic reality than existed pre-pandemic.

Estimated Aid to Rhode Island and Its Municipalities

Rhode Island will receive a total of approximately $1.78 billion in federal COVID relief aid:

  • $1.12 billion for the state government
  • $0.11 billion for capital projects
  • $0.54 billion to be distributed to its 39 local governments

City and Town Aid

Rhode Island’s six largest cities will receive the lion’s share of allocated municipal funds, with significantly less for the smaller cities of Newport and Central Falls and the other 31 towns.

The Center’s Recommendations

In general, the COVID relief funds to states and localities should not be spent on any project or initiative that permanently expands the scope or size of government. Spending projects should be temporary, with defined end dates and should have no risk of incurring associated maintenance costs in future years.

Furthermore, all spending plans should be 100% transparent, with full and detailed reporting on the status of all projects and all vendor disbursements. If the function is not adequately staffed within the governmental unit, an auditor or inspector-general-type oversight capacity should be established, temporarily, with the relief funds.

While the federal government has provided general guidelines for authorized spending uses, plenty of grey areas that will be clarified in the coming months and years, as inquiries to the U.S. Treasury are responded to or as inevitable future court cases set precedent.

Based on calls with our national partners and our collective best efforts to interpret these federal guidelines and navigate the grey areas, our Center puts forth the following specific project ideas. For Rhode Island, some of these ideas are applicable only at the state level and some only at the local level, while some others may be applicable at both levels.

The state of Rhode Island is expected to receive approximately $1.8 billion in COVID Relief Funds. All but a few hundred million, which will be spent to plug anticipated budget gaps due to lost tax receipts resulting from the pandemic shutdowns, may be available for special projects or purposes.

The Center’s recommendations are conceptual only. We do not attempt to calculate the cost of each program.

State Government

Educational Uses

  • “Catch Up ESAs” — up to a $750 scholarship “match” for every public and private school K–12 student who was forced into distance learning, to fund complementary educational activities or items, such as tutors, online classes, or other learning aids, where that locality has itself enacted a similar Catch Up ESA scholarship program.

Small Business Uses. The most important component in achieving a full economic recovery is to ensure that a strong foundation exists in the small business community. Without more and better companies, there cannot be more and better–paying jobs for Rhode Islanders.

  • Eliminate fees in specified occupational licensing industries.
  • Allow for immediate and full “expensing” of capital expenditures on RI tax returns through 2024.
  • Fund an increase the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to support low-income working families that were hit hardest by the pandemic lockdowns. NOTE: this EITC increase is only recommended if the state’s minimum wage mandate on employers is not increased.
  • Temporary tax credits for businesses in industries hardest hit by the pandemic lockdowns. Since the government created the lockdown problem, it should play a role in a solution.
  • Temporary waiver of the annual corporate tax, to encourage small business creation.
  • Partially fund cities and towns to phase-out or create/increase the exemption level for the unpopular “tangible assets” tax.

Infrastructure Uses

  • Upgrade Rhode Island’s power grid by moving underground major electric lines on state roads to help avoid future mass power outages.
  • Expanded broadband wireless coverage in remote and low-income areas to allow for increased educational or telehealth options.

General Budget and Public Uses

  • Pay out of Unemployment Insurance benefits.
  • Eliminate “beach fees” through 2024.
  • Pay off some our state’s bonded debt.
  • Build up “Rainy Day Fund.”
  • Fund a temporary Office of the Inspector General with full authority to oversee expenditures and publicly report on inappropriate use of funds.

Civics Uses

  • Provide a print copy of the United States Constitution and the Rhode Island Constitution to every elected official and government employee at the state and local level.

Municipal Governments

Larger municipalities will receive tens of millions of dollars in windfall funding.

Unlike the restrictions on state governments, the federal guidelines for the COVID Relief Funds do not ban municipalities from using these funds to reduce taxes.

Educational Uses

  • “Catch Up ESAs” — a $500 scholarship for every public and private school K–12 student who was forced into distance learning, to fund complementary educational activities or items, such as tutors, online classes, or other learning aids.
  • Property tax refund in recognition that full in-person learning was not made available to students in 2020 or 2021 and other government services were curtailed.

Small Business Uses

  • Property tax credits for businesses in the hardest hit industries or for all businesses.
  • Phase-out or create/increase the exemption level for the unpopular “tangible assets” tax (potentially funded via state use of COVID Relief Funds)

Senior Citizens Uses

  • Upgrade senior centers with a one-time purchase of recreational aids (audio/visual, for example) or transportation (shuttle buses).

Infrastructure Uses

  • One-time upgrades to parks, sports facilities, and other recreational areas.

General Budget and Public Uses

  • Pay off some the locality’s bonded debt.
  • Build up “rainy day funds.”
  • Fund a temporary Office of the Inspector General with full authority to oversee expenditures, and publicly report on inappropriate use of funds.
Motorists

MEDIA RELEASE: Center Urges Motorists to Join in Call to Stop the TCI Gas Tax

Center Launches Campaign for Ocean State Motorists to “SAY NO” to TCI Gas Taxes

Providence, RI – The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity announced today that it has launched its “Say NO to the TCI Gas Tax” campaign, including an online form, whereby Ocean State motorists can petition the state lawmakers to reject the regional gasoline cap-and-trade scheme, known as the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI).

The simple form, once completed at www.RIFreedom.org/TCI-action, will automatically send an email to the Governor and to legislative leaders. Social media advertising, to raise awareness of how state residents can take action, has already begun.

A January report by the Center estimated that the TCI Gas Tax would cost the average family an extra $1200 per year in increased fuel, food, and retail product prices.

“As our state struggles to recover from the pandemic, and while Biden administration policies are already driving up the price of gasoline, it should be unthinkable that state lawmakers would choose this time to plan an additional 30-40 cents per gallon gas tax increase ,” warned Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “People who drive their cars are not ‘bad guys’ as some government officials believe.”

A leaked video caught a Massachusetts government climate official overtly stating that people who drive cars, like “seniors on fixed incomes” are “bad guys” who need to have “the screws turned on them” so as to “break their will.”

The petition email in part states; Along with the 7 in 10 Ocean Staters, per a January public poll, who oppose TCI once they learn of its high cost:

  • I oppose the TCI gas tax scheme, designed to make gasoline prices so high that I will be forced to drive less, and so that “gasoline will go away.”
  • I am not willing to pay major new gas taxes at the pump and for increased prices of vehicle delivered goods, especially when there is virtually no environmental benefit.
  • I believe Rhode Islanders should be free to choose the energy options that best fit our lives.

Earlier this week, the Center formally called on Governor McKee to withdraw Rhode Island from the regional TCI compact that former Governor Raimondo signed the state up for.

In December, former Governor Gina Raimondo signed-on Rhode Island, just one of three states to do so, to the TCI Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU). Implementation of TCI would lead to a significant increase in automobile and diesel gasoline prices for motorists, while also systematically limiting regional supplies of vehicle fuel.

More information about the proposed TCI gas tax can be found on the Center’s TCI webpage: RIFreedom.org/NoTCItax. The Center is one of over two-dozen organizations in the northeast working cooperatively to defeat TCI in their respective states.

We call on Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee to officially withdraw from the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) Gas Tax.

Center Calls on Gov. Daniel McKee to Withdraw RI from TCI

Center Calls on McKee to Withdraw R.I. from Raimondo’s Transportation & Climate Initiative Action

Providence, RI – The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity calls on the newly sworn-in Governor of Rhode Island, Daniel McKee, to officially withdraw the Ocean State from the regional gasoline cap-and-trade scheme, known as the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI).

“For years as Lieutenant Governor, Dan McKee expressed verbal support for the small business community. Now is the time for the Governor to take action and to separate himself from his predecessor’s anti-business policies. The Governor should immediately put to rest any notion that his administration will impose a job-killing, budget-destroying gasoline tax on businesses and families who are struggling to recover from the pandemic,” commented Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “Today, our Center calls on the Governor to take executive action to formally withdraw Rhode Island from the TCI compact.”

In December, former Governor Gina Raimondo signed-on Rhode Island, just one of three states to do so, to the TCI Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU). Implementation of TCI would lead to a significant increase in automobile and diesel gasoline prices, while also systematically limiting regional supplies of vehicle fuel.

In calling on Governor Daniel McKee to eschew the costly TCI gas tax, the Center points to research and polling that shows why TCI is poor public policy:

  • Rhode Islanders are not “bad guys” that should be punished for driving their vehicles, as one gov’t official in Mass. expressed
  • The regressive TCI gas tax would disproportionately harm low-income families
  • The high economic costs and job losses would further hamper our state’s faltering economy, with virtually no environmental benefit in return
  • An overwhelming majority of polled Ocean Staters do not support TCI, once they understand the high costs
  • A TCI gas tax would make our state even less competitive, by weakening our already worst-in-the-nation business climate

Later this week, the Center will announce a public campaign to petition the Governor and state legislative leaders to reject the TCI compact.

More information about the proposed TCI gas tax can be found on the Center’s TCI webpage: RIFreedom.org/NoTCItax . The Center is one of over two-dozen organizations in the northeast working cooperatively to defeat TCI in their respective states.

Vote to “Reject” all 7 bond Questions

Rhode Islanders can’t afford $642 million – We’ve Spent Enough Money!

Doc Skoly Does It Again! #RejectThe7RI

Center Releases Counter-video to Cooler/Warmer II

Providence, RI – In response to a union-funded advertising video in support of new bonded debt that will cost taxpayers $642 million, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity today released its own video ad, urging voters to “REJECT” each of the 7 special-interest oriented spending questions on the ballot for the special election, now underway through March 2. 

Citing the Ocean State’s existing level of crushing debt, the video’s theme is ‘We’ve spent enough money’. The Center’s video was produced by JawDoc Productions, the same outfit that in just few hours in 2016, at virtually no cost, produced a superior and more popular counter-video to the  massively expensive and geographically-incorrect Cooler/Warmer video ad embarrassingly published by Governor Gina Raimondo at significant taxpayer expense. 

“This year, special interest unions conspired to fund yet another advertising debacle, again paying exorbitant fees to an out of state firm, which made the same mistake in using geographically-incorrect images,” commented Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “Just take a look at the money behind this ad campaign promoting massive government spending; it is clear that such spending will only enrich insider cronies at the expense of the hard-working people of our state.” This year’s union video has been dubbed by many as Cooler/Warmer II

The Center argues that debt is a delayed tax. And that as Ocean Staters struggle to recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic, forced to cut back on their family and business budgets … that likewise, the State of Rhode Island should trim its big-spending habits. “It would be completely tone-deaf and yet another self-inflicted wound for government to impose such future burdens on taxpayers during these trying times,” concluded Stenhouse. 

Dr. Stephen Skoly, founder of JawDoc Productions and a maxillo-facial surgeon, is also Chairman of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity.  

More Reasons for Voters To Reject All 7 Bond Questions

  • Debt is $14,700 per taxpayer, giving RI a D for fiscal health.
  • Per capita bonded debt of $10,215, 3rd highest
  • In general, RI’s interest costs of 25% (17th highest)
  • Estimated interest of 5% on 3/2/21 bond questions produces interest cost estimate of 60% ($242m on $400m).
  • Story of recent migration in RI is young, early-career people moving out and older people moving in. Inevitable tax increase to pay for debt will push more younger folks out while squeezing the older folks, especially those on fixed incomes.

BREAKING: Stenhouse submits testimony on Senate bill that restricts energy choice

Stenhouse Submits Testimony against “Fantasy” Senate Bill, Harmfully Seeking to Curb RI’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Providence, RI – The CEO for the  the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity submitted written testimony this morning to the Senate Committee on Environment & Agriculture, regarding a Senate bill (S0078) scheduled for a hearing this afternoon that would accelerate Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GGE) reduction mandates for the state. 

In his testimony, posted online here, Mike Stenhouse writes: 

It is pure fantasy that there is anything our small state can do to impact the greater world climate. When weighed against the punishing economic realities that would be forced upon our state’s residents, the calculation becomes far, far worse.

Renowned climate change advocate, John Kerry, this week publicly admitted that even the entire US, alone eliminating GGE, would be insignificant for the globe. Further, Rhode Island’s capacity to impact world GGE is merely 1/350th of our entire nation’s stated non-capacity. 

Energy policies are best handled at the federal and international level, as state-based and other local efforts end up producing an incredibly poor cost-vs-benefit value proposition. As our report demonstrates, legislation like S0078 and the TCI gas tax, would mean that that Rhode Islanders would bear the high economic costs … for zero meaningful environmental benefit

Stenhouse, after citing (from his organization’s recent report) the harsh negative economic impacts that even a smaller climate change initiative (TCI) would cause, concludes his testimony by pleading: 

I ask you not to give families and businesses yet another reason not to choose Rhode Island as their destination to live, work, and invest in our state. 

The “report” referred to was published last week by the Center, a 10-page paper, The Effects of a TCI-Style Gas Tax on Motor Fuels in Rhode Island, which calculates that the total social costs of such a gas tax would be 105 times more severe than the anticipated social benefits. Under TCI in Rhode Island, global carbon emissions would be reduced by an insignificant 0.00016%. 

Alos, according to a recent poll commissioned by the Center, public support for the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) drops significantly when voters learn the policy will result in gas tax hikes, a significant projected loss of jobs, and a major reduction in the average family’s disposable income, especially since TCI will “disproportionately affect commuters and low-income families.”

Last month, the Center was one of 20 co-signers of an open regional coalition letter, which concluded that “at its core, TCI is a poor concept that is fundamentally regressive, economically damaging, and places an unnecessary financial burden on people who can least afford it.” 

More information about the proposed TCI gas tax can be found on the Center’s TCI webpage: RIFreedom.org/NoTICtax.

POLL: Rhode Islanders say “No” to high costs of TCI Gas Tax

Rhode Islanders Reject Notion of Higher Gas Taxes as Solution to Reduce Carbon Emissions
Support for TCI Crumbles as Residents Learn of Negative Economic Impacts #NoTCITax

Providence, RI – Struggling to recover from the pandemic lockdowns, almost 20% more Rhode Islanders oppose than support the plan for a new TCI gas tax as a solution to reduce carbon emissions, after learning of its potential negative economic impacts on lower-income families and on their own financial security. 

According to a recent poll conducted by the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, initial conceptual support for the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) drops significantly when voters learn the policy will result in gas tax hikes, a significant projected loss of jobs, and a major reduction in the average family’s disposable income. 

Rhode Islanders oppose TCI when they learn about its high costs – including a $0.23 increase in the gas tax, an estimated 2,000 jobs lost, and a $1,200 reduction in disposable income for the average Rhode Island family.

  • Support for TCI falls from 42.0% (total of voters who strongly or somewhat support TCI) to 29.6% when voters learn of the projected negative economic impacts.
  • Opposition to TCI rises from 35.8% to 48.6%.

Concern over TCI’s negative economic impact is universal.

  • Support among Democrats falls from 62.2% to 41.8%
  • Opposition from independents/unaffiliated votes rises to 55% (from 45%) after learning of the high costs; support falls from 31.5% to 23%.
  • Support among younger voters falls from 52.3% to 33.1%

Rhode Islanders also fear that TCI’s economic impact will be disproportionately felt by low-income families and commuters.

  • 48% feel that TCI will “disproportionately affect commuters and low-income families.”

“Rhode Islanders clearly feel, after all we’ve been through, that now is not the time to punish people for driving their vehicles,” commented the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. “On the flip side, by not adopting this TCI scheme and keeping gas taxes where they are, our Ocean State would gain a competitive advantage over our Massachusetts and Connecticut neighbors.” 

Results are based on a survey of 500 voters statewide fielded January 22-24, 2021 that included questions dedicated to TCI. Interviews were conducted by both live operators and collected online via text message. The margin of error is +/- 4.4% with a 95% confidence level. The poll was sponsored by the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity and conducted by Advantage, Inc

TCI is a proposed interstate compact, officially endorsed by soon to be former Governor Gina Raimondo, that would artificially raise gasoline prices under the guise of reducing regional carbon emissions. Enabling legislation for TCI is expected in Rhode Island’s 2021 legislative session.  

Last week, the Center published a 10-page report, The Effects of a TCI-Style Gas Tax on Motor Fuels in Rhode Island, which calculates that the total social costs of such a gas tax would be 105 times more severe than the anticipated social benefits. Under TCI in Rhode Island, global carbon emissions would be reduced by an insignificant 0.00016%. 

Last month, the Center was one of 20 co-signers of an open regional coalition letter, which concluded that “at its core, TCI is a poor concept that is fundamentally regressive, economically damaging, and places an unnecessary financial burden on people who can least afford it.” 

More information about the proposed TCI gas tax can be found on the Center’s TCI webpage: RIFreedom.org/NoTICtax . 

Center Publishes TCI Economic Impact Report on Same Day Raimondo Auditions for U.S. Commerce Secretary

Center Publishes TCI Economic Impact Report

Negative Costs Over 100 Times More Severe than the Benefits #NoTCItax

Providence, RI – As the state struggles to recover from the crushing economic lockdowns imposed by Governor Gina Raimondo, who today is the subject of confirmation hearings for the cabinet position of U.S. Secretary of commerce, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity published a report detailing the significant negative economic impact on the Rhode Island economy should the state approve participation in the controversial Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI). TCI is a proposed interstate compact, officially endorsed by Raimondo, that would artificially raise gasoline prices under the guise of reducing regional carbon emissions.

The 10-page report, The Effects of a TCI Gas Tax on Motor Fuels in Rhode Island, calculates that the total social costs of such a gas tax would be 105 times more severe than the anticipated social benefits. Under TCI in Rhode Island, global carbon emissions would be reduced by an insignificant 0.00016%. “The obvious purpose behind this TCI scheme is not environmental – it’s nothing more than a greedy money grab,” suggested the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse.

The report, researched and co-published by The Beacon Hill Institute in Massachusetts using its state tax analysis modeling program (STAMP), concluded: 

We find that the imposition of a carbon (or TCI) tax on motor fuels would produce a  less-competitive business environment, resulting in a slower-growing economy that  produces lower employment, disposable income, and investment. While the revenue generated under a carbon tax could be used to create new jobs, any new jobs would be created at the expense of the private sector.

Per the report, if TCI were implemented in 2022, within 5 years, the Ocean State would suffer:

  • A per family loss of disposable income of $1205/yr ($815 million overall)
  • A loss of 1856 state-based jobs
  • Reduced business investment of $826 million
  • A loss of state GDP of $416 million

“After all that the people of our state have been through this past year, for government now to punish people for driving their vehicles, is just flat out cruel, especially for lower-income families,” added Stenhouse. “In seeking to control and restrict the energy choices of businesses and residents, potentially leading to fuel shortages and long gas lines, these far-left unelected bureaucrats will give Americans another reason not to reside or work in Rhode Island.”

The Center’s report also listed multiple examples of failed carbon tax efforts in the U.S. and across the globe.

Earlier this month, the Center was one of 20 co-signers of an open regional coalition letter, which concluded that “at its core, TCI is a poor concept that is fundamentally regressive, economically damaging, and places an unnecessary financial burden on people who can least afford it.” 

Enabling legislation for TCI is expected in Rhode Island’s 2021 legislative session. In the coming weeks, the Center expects to release a public survey poll about Rhode Islanders’ attitudes towards increased gas prices, especially when those taxes result in little, if any, environmental benefit.

More information about the proposed TCI gas tax can be found on the Center’s TCI webpage: RIFreedom.org/NoTICtax .