Gas Tax

What Rhode Islanders should know about the TCI Gas Tax Q & A about the Transportation & Climate Initiative

Analysis by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity

On December 17 the Georgetown Law Center, in cooperation with the Raimondo administration in Rhode Island and other regional state governments, published its Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) draft Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU). It will be open for on-line comments until February 28. At some point after that, Governor Raimondo is expected to initiate a process for our state to officially join the TCI regional compact. 

The original plan was to seek legislative approval to enact some provisions to make TCI enforceable on Rhode Island fuel dealers. However, with bi-partisan opposition building in the state for this stealth gas tax, it is unclear if the Governor will attempt to act solely by “executive” authority and attempt to bypass the General Assembly. 

Here are some questions and answers that will explain what the TCI proposed policy is, and what it expects to do.

Q: What is TCI? 

TCI is a multistate regional agreement designed to drive up the price of motor fuel (gasoline and on-road diesel).  It proposes to start at five, nine or seventeen cents per gallon, and escalate upward from that, with no declared maximum.

Q: Why do TCI backers and climate alarmists want to drive up the price of motor fuel? 

Because they are convinced that “climate change poses a clear, present, and increasingly dangerous threat to the communities and economic security” Rhode Island and other regional states. The MOU says that the participating states will “need to implement bold initiatives to mitigate the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector,” which produce 40% of human-caused emissions. 

Q: This sounds familiar. Isn’t this TCI attack on transportation just an extension of “RhodeMapRI”?

Yes. While much of our Center’s years-ago battle against RhodeMapRI focused on property rights, it has always been the goal of the left’s larger “sustainability” objectives to restrict and reduce the use of personal autos and business vehicles.

Q: How will TCI drive down those emissions? 

By driving up the price of gasoline and diesel fuel so you will be financially forced to drive less, drive smaller cars, use electric vehicles, walk, ride bicycles, use public transportation, move closer to school and work, and so on.

Q: How does TCI drive up motor fuel prices?  

TCI creates a “cap and invest” system, or what we call a ‘cap-and-trade’ carbon tax scheme. TCI sets a cap, or limit, on carbon dioxide emissions from burning regular and diesel motor fuel. Every distributor of motor fuel – many dozens in Rhode Island – will be required to purchase “allowances” to match the motor fuel sold during each reporting period.

Q: So motorists, including passenger cars, pickups, SUVs, vans, school buses, delivery trucks, contractor vehicles, milk tankers, ambulances, state and municipal trucks, and motorcycles will end up paying for the allowances?  

Yes, fuel prices are expected to rise significantly at the gas pump.

Q: Won’t TCI hit hardest on working people and the poor, especially in our state’s rural areas? 

Yes. As a regressive tax, the TCI Gas Tax will disproportionately harm low-income families, especially those who live some distance from commercial centers or their workplace.

Q: What does the state get for imposing these costs on motorists? 

TCI will distribute among the participating states some fraction of the revenue from its sale of “allowances”, per a yet to be determined formula. The states are supposed to use these revenues to further drive down gasoline and on-road diesel use, and “help their residents transition to affordable, low-carbon transportation options”. Paying people to buy electric cars and funding more mass transit systems, are examples of how your gas money might be spent. However, it appears that a designated state agency will have final say on how the funds are spent, not the General Assembly.

Q: How many “allowances” will TCI issue? 

As many – or as few – as it sees fit. In ceding ‘taxing’ authority to a regional entity, TCI, in essence creates a shadow governmentof unelected bureaucrats who can unilaterally decide how much of a ‘gas tax’ motorists should pay in Rhode Island and in other states.

TCI can invent allowances out of thin air anytime its ideologues want to further punish motorists. Motor fuel distributors will be forced to go into TCI’s auction market to buy enough of them with real money to match their motor fuel deliveries over a preceding reporting period. 

The cost of these “allowances”, which will necessarily increase as the allowable supply is systematically reduced, will be passed on to motorists in the form of continually increasing gas prices that you will be forced to pay at the pump.

Q: How much will the preferred TCI scenario reduce carbon dioxide emissions from motor fuel? 

The Josiah Bartlett Center in New Hampshire analyzed the TCI economic model. It found that the “reference case” used by the Georgetown Climate Center to project what would happen from 2022 to 2032 if states did notimplement the TCI would likely be a 19% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, due to technological advances and existing fuel regulations. 

If TCI isimplemented, regional emissions are only projected to fall by an additional 1% to 6%, on top of the presumed 19% reduction. In short, TCI would extract $56 billionregionally from motor fuel users to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by a little more than 5 percent over ten years.  

Q: Will the reduction of emissions projected by TCI actually reduce “climate change”?

No, not in any measurable way. In fact, using the United Nation’s own climate change modeling tool, MAGICC, the effect of the TCI regional compact, even if implemented across the entire region until the year 2100, would produce ZEROimpact(out to 3 decimal places) on global temperatures.


Q: What is the Cost-vs-Benefit calculation for TCI?

Miserable. Why should Ocean Staters be forced to pay for something that will produce no environmental benefit?

Like most all prescriptions by environmental radicals, TCI would have a net-negative impact on state economies without any corresponding benefit. Our Center’s policy brief on TCI describes the negative impact another cap-and-trade compact (on electricity) that Rhode Island joined 2007, RGGI (the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative), has resulted in clear economic losses for participating RGGI states.

Q: Gov. Gina Raimondo has steadfastly advocated that this stealth TCI tax on gas is needed to “save the planet”. Doesn’t the General Assembly have the sole authority to impose taxes?

Yes, that’s what most constitutional experts assert. If she attempts to act unilaterally via executive power, and bypass the General Assembly, the Governor would certainly be inviting a lawsuit over Constitutional separation of powers.

Already, New Hampshire’s governor has rejected the TCI carbon tax scheme, while the governors of Vermont and Connecticut have openly expressed skepticism about carbon taxes and TCI.

Q: Sounds like TCI is actually a “sin tax,” is that true?

Yes, pretty much. TCI seeks to punish people for using personal and business vehicles in the course of their everyday lives. The climate extremists who created TCI believe that it is a sinfor you to drive to work, take your children to school, visit family, take your car shopping, or deliver goods or services … we do not!

Q: What can I do to voice my views on the stealth TCI Gas Tax? 

You can read more about TCI on our Center’s webpage – www.RIFreedom.org/TCI– where you will be directed to sign a #NoTCItax petition and/or comment directly on the TCI website. 

Rhode Island Transportation cost could be going up.

Ahead of State of the State Address, Center Publishes TCI Gas Tax Q&A

What Every Rhode Islander Should Know About the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI)

Providence, RI – With Governor Raimondo expected to address climate change in her annual “State of the State Address” this evening, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity today published a Question & Answer document about the carbon tax “cap and trade” regional compact she is advancing – the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI).

With four of the six New England state Governors publicly stating major concerns about TCI, if not outright rejection, and with Speaker Mattiello also expressing opposition, Governor Raimondo remains stubbornly committed to a scheme developed by radical environmentalists that purposefully seeks to make gasoline so expensive that Rhode Island motorists will be forced to drive less often.

Titled, ‘What Rhode Islanders Should Know About the TCI Gas Tax’, the Q&A document answers commonly asked questions about the objectives of TCI, how it works, and how it will impact Ocean State families and businesses. Initial details of the regional Transportation & Climate Initiative gas tax plan were released in December.

“The Governor may try to sugar-coat TCI in her address this evening, but Rhode Islanders should not be fooled; this is a crushing new tax on the budgets of families and businesses,” said the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. “Hard-working Rhode Islanders should not be purposefully punished for driving their kids to school, going to work, visiting family, going shopping, or delivering goods and services.”

With opposition mounting among state lawmakers, it is unclear if Governor Raimondo, who says TCI is necessary to “save our planet”, may seek to unilaterally impose the TCI gas tax on Ocean State motorists and truckers, or if she will seek legislative approval. The final TCI plan is expected in the early spring of 2020, when executive or legislative action could initiate.

The Center, part of a 12-state #NoTICtax coalition that will meet this Friday in Boston, signed an Open TCI Letter in December along with partners from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Virginia, Vermont, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Maine, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, and Washington, DC.

The Center’s policy brief released last month, the TCI Tax, lays out the ‘diabolical’ goals of TCI, a green-new-deal type program whose goal is to make gasoline so expensive that it will “go away”. Like all far-left contrivances to reduce carbon-gas emissions, the TCI gas tax will harm economic growth and will take money out of the pockets of residents, while failing to meet its stated environmental goals. The policy brief discusses in detail the many reasons why our Rhode Island should not join the TCI compact, including:

  • In Rhode Island, with its already dismal business climate and exodus of people to lower-cost states, families and businesses cannot afford a significant new gas tax
  • The failure of a similar regional scheme on electricity, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, has driven up consumer costs; has resulted in no added greenhouse gas reductions; and has caused economic harm. There is every reason to believe TCI will also produce a negative cost vs. benefit result. 
  • The Governor should not try to bypass the Constitutional authority of the General Assembly by unilaterally seeking to impose this new gas tax
  • Rhode Island could gain a significant competitive advantage in the region by refusing to sign-on to the TCI tax scheme by being able to offer lower-priced gasoline products
  • There are many less disruptive and more efficient ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • State and national legal challenges may result, along a number of potential Constitutional angle

The TCI Q&A, the TCI Open Letter, the TCI Gas Tax policy brief, and other related information can be found at RIFreedom.org/NoTCITax.

Rhode Island still held its overall ranking of 47th in the country on the September 2019 third quater Jobs & Opportunity Index.

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), September 2019: Hanging on While the Country Advances

As the third quarter of 2019 came to a close, Rhode Island still held its overall ranking of 47th in the country on the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) but was basically tied with 48th place Louisiana. Data for all 12 datapoints of the index except federal taxes were updated for this iteration, and RI benefited by the fact that it was finally able to report data for SNAP (foodstamps), which it had not done for two-and-a-half years thanks to the UHIP debacle.

Compared with June, RI improved on most measures. Employment and labor force were up about 0.6% since the first-reported numbers for June, with RI-based jobs increasing a more-modest 0.3%. Correspondingly, Medicaid enrollment fell 0.8%, while TANF (cash welfare) rolls shrank by 8.0%. SNAP enrollment was down 4.0%, although that is from the number as reported ever since February 2017. The Ocean State had 2.3% fewer residents who counted as long-term unemployed and 3.8% fewer who were working only part time because more work was not available. However, the number counting as marginally attached increased 23.7%.

The picture is also mixed when it comes to money. Personal income was up 3.9% on an annualized basis, which amounted to $1.8 billion more income. However, state and local taxation increased 10.5%, or $349 million, resulting not only from the increased income, but also expansive changes to tax policy.

The first chart shows RI remaining last in New England on JOI, at 47th for September 2019. New Hampshire returned to 1st nationally. Vermont and Maine slipped, to 14th and 19th, respectively. Massachusetts remained 37th. However, Connecticut advanced to 38th.

Rhode Island still held its overall ranking of 47th in the country on the September 2019 third quater Jobs & Opportunity Index.

The second chart shows the gaps between RI and New England and the United States on JOI for September 2019, and the third chart shows the gaps in the official unemployment rate.

Rhode Island still held its overall ranking of 47th in the country on the September 2019 third quater Jobs & Opportunity Index.
Rhode Island still held its overall ranking of 47th in the country on the September 2019 third quater Jobs & Opportunity Index.

Results for the three underlying Jobs & Opportunity Index factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (optimism that adequate work is available): RI fell three spots, to 32nd.
  • Freedom Factor (the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI advanced two, to 41st.
  • Prosperity Factor (the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI remained 47th.

Click here for the corresponding employment post on the Ocean State Current.

Are local, state, and federal governments over-reacting to the recent reports of vaping-related illnesses, and even deaths?

The Other Side of the Vaping Debate

Are local, state, and federal governments over-reacting to the recent reports of vaping-related illnesses, and even deaths?

Are the decisions by the governors of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, for instance, to halt the sale of vaping products … which will destroy jobs and businesses … fueled by solid research, or inspired by politically-correct activism?

This week the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity co-signed a national letter urging the Trump administration’s FDA not to proceed with its proposed regulatory crack-down on what many see as a burgeoning and life-saving industry.

The excerpt below gives the primary argument against governmental over-reaction, while the letter itself strongly presents the other side of the vaping debate.

“Both the FDA and Centers for Disease Control now acknowledge that the recent deaths and respiratory and lung illnesses associated with vaping have largely been caused by the illicit marijuana and THC market. Instead of targeting legal nicotine products that have existed for a decade, the administration’s focus should be on cracking down on California drug dealers that are poisoning consumers with dangerous, unregulated, and counterfeit products sourced from places like China and Mexico.”

Sean Spicer to Keynote Center’s Annual Freedom Banquet; former White House Press Secretary is RI Native

2019 Freedom Banquet to Feature Sean Spicer

Annual Luncheon has Become Rhode Island’s Largest Gathering of Conservatives

Providence, RI Sean Spicer, the Rhode Island native and former White House Press Secretary, will be the keynote speaker the 3rd annual Freedom Banquet, a fundraising luncheon for the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

The October 25 banquet, which has drawn over 200 people in its first two years, has become the largest annual gathering of conservatives in the Ocean State. 

Spicer, who is currently performing on the hit realty-TV series, Dancing With The Stars, will discuss his experiences as Communications Director for the Trump Administration in its turbulent first year. All attendees will receive an autographed copy of Spicer’s book, The Briefing

The luncheon will also feature the announcement of the winner of the Center’s 2019 “Pillar of Freedom” award. Past winners are Robert and Warren Galkin (2017) and Dr. Daniel Harrop (2018). 

Individual tickets can be purchased with a tax-deductible donation of $175 or a table of eight can be reserved for $1200. More information and registration can be found at www.RIFreedom.org/Events .

sean spicer

PAID FOR NOT WORKING, COLLECTIVE-BARGAINING TAXPAYER RIPOFF #2 : Providence Teacher Leaves of Absence

It is not difficult to understand that if our front-line public servants have incentive to not actually be on the front lines, then the overall quality of those public services will suffer … Mike Stenhouse

In the spring of 2019, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity published a major report — Public Union Excesses — detailing the $888 million per year in excessive costs paid by taxpayers due to overly generous collective bargaining provisions in government union contracts at the state and local levels. With two-thirds of these costs absorbed by municipal taxpayers, property taxes could be lowered by as much as 25% if government services were contracted at normal market rates.

Societal Costs. The excessive financial costs to taxpayers may not be as troubling as the social costs resulting from government worker unionization in our state. Union officials have propagated a culture in which extracting every possible dime from taxpayers and dues-payers, regardless of the impact on the quality of the services rendered, appears to be the objective, a culture that inevitably has creeped into the workplace. 

Educational Failures. Perhaps no area of government service exemplifies this negative value proposition more clearly than public education. In November 2018, the state released the RICAS student assessment scores, which highlighted the Ocean State’s dismal performance of schools within its public educational system. Furthermore, a July 2018 report showed that Rhode Island schools also suffered from the third-highest teacher absentee rate in the nation.

Connecting the dots, Public Union Excesses clearly lays out the many union contract provisions that provide a disincentive for teachers and other public employees to actually show up for work or perform the vital public services they were hired to conduct at peak levels. 

Teacher Attendance. With a national spotlight shining on the government-run Providence public school system for operating what some have characterized as among the worst schools in the country, the lack of consistent and reliable teacher attendance has been in the news.  Boston Globe journalist Dan McGowan reports that 500 of the city’s teachers (more than one-quarter) were absent at least 18 times, which is 10% of the school year.  That percentage is subtracted from teachers’ 181-day work-year, which is already 21% shorter than the approximate private-sector average work-year of 230.

Parents and interested Rhode Islanders might wonder how this is possible, so the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity took a look at the Providence Teachers Union contract.  Our results are shown in the table below.

In summary, in a standard year, teachers are contractually allowed to take up to 26 days off for a variety of reasons, from sick leave (15 days) to “purposes connected with the welfare of the school and/or community” (2 days).  Unlike in the private sector, unused sick days for teachers are allowed to roll over — in full — from year to year, up to 150 days.  A teacher can use up to 135 paid days off in one year before facing any consequences.

Common life events like weddings and deaths can add more time to the annual total — 11 days for a year with one of each.  Additionally, all teachers are eligible for up to another 11 days for union activities on a rotating and limited basis.  Additionally, a union professional development/mentoring coordinator is relieved of teaching duties for one-fifth of the school year, while the union president is relieved for two-fifths; that’s the equivalent of 36 and 72 days each.  Adding in the other days off available to all teachers, the union president would be able to not do any actual teaching for the equivalent of 101 of the work year’s 181 days.  The Center reported on such absences in our May 2019 “Ghost Workers” report.

On top of this are longer-term and more-rare absences like sabbaticals, quarantine, or job-related-injury leave, which can go for a year or more with pay.  Teachers can also take a year at a time off without pay for a number of reasons.

Of course, when a regular teacher is away for a day or for an extended period of time, a substitute teacher must often be hired at additional expense; in Providence it is estimated that substitute teachers cost taxpayers and extra $7 million per year.

These added costs, combined with the reduced quality of education, are one reason why Providence public schools are performing so poorly.

“PAID FOR NOT WORKING” – COLLECTIVELY BARGAINED, ALLOWED TEACHER ABSENCES IN PROVIDENCE

Number of Days Contract Citation
Standard Year
Sick leave 15 4-1
Personal 2 5-1.4
Superintendent-approved personal 3 5-1.5
Religious observance 3 5-1.2
"Welfare of the school and/or community" 2 5-1.6
Visiting other schools (in or out of district) 1 5-1.7
Subtotal 26
Life Events1
Wedding 2 5-1.1
Bereavement (immediate family) 5 5-2
Bereavement (in-laws) 3 5-2
Bereavement (extended) 1 5-2
Subtotal 11
Union Activities (Limited Number of Teachers)
Delegate to AFL-CIO or other union meetings 5 5-1.3
Negotiating Committee2 1 16-2.2
Union professional development/mentoring attendance 5 8-30-2
Subtotal 11
Total available to any given teacher each year 48
Special Union Positions3
Union professional development/mentoring coordinator4 36 8-30-1
Total available to coordinator 65
Union president5 72 5-6
Total available to union president 101
Other Events
Sabbatical 91 5-3
Compulsory Reserve or National Guard 20 5-7.2
Injured on the job 90 6-1
Assault and/or battery on the job 181 6-2
Government tests & examinations Unlimited 5-8
Court service Unlimited 5-9
Quarantine Unlimited 5-10
Without Pay
Personal 181 5-5.1
Union service 181 5-6
Military leave 181 5-7
Parental/adoption leave 181 5-11
Notes:
1 The “life events” subtotal assumes one of each in a given year.
2 We estimate an average of one day per year in total negotiating time for each teacher on the negotiating committee. Some years, this would be zero, and other years, it could be much higher than 1.
3 The union coordinator and president totals adjust the days available for all teachers so as not to double count their lighter work schedules.
4 The number of days off for the coordinator is the one-fifth schedule reduction applied to the full school year.
5 The number of days off for the president is the two-fifth schedule reduction applied to the full school year.
On the one year JANUS Anniversary: Center Launches $30,000 Phase-2 of Campaign to Inform Public Employees of their Rights

JANUS Anniversary: Center Launches $30,000 Phase-2 of Campaign to Inform Public Employees of their Rights

MyPayMySay Campaign to Spend $30,000 in Phase-2
Phase-1 Led to Doubling of State Worker Opt-Outs

Providence, RI –– In recognition of tomorrow’s one-year anniversary of the landmark US Supreme Court Janus v AFSCME ruling the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity announced today that it has launched phase-2 of its MyPayMySayRI.comcampaign to inform government workers of their restored first-Amendment rights.

“After hearing last summer from dozens of workers, frustrated that their unions were not adequately informing them of their rights following the Janus decision, our Center quickly launched, with little funding, our MyPayMySaycampaign, in conjunction with our national partner, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. 

Phase-1 of the campaign has already achieved significant results. According to a Providence Journal article, the percentage of state workers choosing not to become a union member has doubled from about 3% to 6% in less than one year. Also, 26% of the professional staff at the University of Rhode Island have left their NEA-RI union. 

JANUS Anniversary

Yet, a recent national survey shows that 83% of K-12 teachers don’t fully understand their rights, while half of all teachers still don’t know they can leave their union without being required to pay fees and without losing any of their pay, health insurance, tenure, or seniority or other benefits.

Phase-2 of the Center’s campaign, following a more sustained fundraising outreach, began in late May and will end in July. Overall, approximately $30,000 is being spent to inform workers of their options through social media and web advertising, as well as mail pieces to union households.

The June 27 anniversary coincides with action this month by state lawmakers to side-step the rights of public employees by advancing bills that are a clear contrast to the decision made by the nation’s highest court. The legislation gives government unions special access to workers and allows unions to charge certain fees to those who choose not to pay for membership. The Center will monitor these actions from a legal standpoint.

Government unions themselves were exposed in the news last year when the NEA-RI issued a misleading and coercive letter to its local Bristol-Warren members.

State government officials also have been complicit in attempting to deny public employees the unbiased information they need to make the best decision for themselves and their families. Last summer, Governor Raimondo issued a directive to deny state-worker information to groups seeking to inform workers of their rights. And, more disturbingly, shortly after the Center’s campaign was launched, former Attorney General Kilmartin issued a public statement that misled public workers about their Janus rights; legal experts rightly called out this failure of leadership.

In many other states, where similar post-Janus or Right-To-Work informational campaigns have been initiated, up to 20%-30% of public employees have freely chosen to leave their government-designated unions.

Public employees can learn the full truth at www.MyPayMySayRI.com.