Despite a booming national economy, Rhode Island's economic outlook dropped back into the bottom-10 among according to Rich States Poor States by ALEC.

Progressive Policies Sink Ocean State Back into the Bottom-10

Providence, RI– How much bad news can our state absorb before its political leaders change course, asks the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity? Fittingly, it is on Tax Day that high taxes once again are cited for sinking the Ocean State.

Despite a booming national economy, many recently published metrics show Rhode Island is heading in the opposite direction, underscored by today’s announcement that the Ocean State’s “economic outlook” dropped three-slots and back into the bottom-10 among all states, according to the 12th edition of the Rich States Poor States publication, produced by ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council). 

“Our state is squandering its opportunity to remain competitive and to increase prosperity for its residents,” says Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center, who participated in a national conference call last week to preview today’s ALEC release. “This report reinforces all of the research and projections our Center has conducted in recent years. The upcoming a census will likely deliver the worst news for the Ocean State, which is losing the population battle. As this report again highlights, states with free economies and lower taxes are likely to see an increase in population, while the unfriendly economies with high tax and spend policies, like Rhode Island, are seeing a relative decrease.”

According to the Center, Rhode Island, is falling behind by standing still. While state politicians crow each year about not implementing broad new taxes, the unfortunate truth is that by nickle-and-diming residents and by not implementing aggressive reforms Rhode Island will continue to lose ground, nationally. As other states have moved to increase economic freedom for families and business, Rhode Island is losing ground by standing still: to reverse course, it must work quickly to reduce its onerous tax and regulatory burdens.

However, there is no indication that any political leader in Rhode Island has the courage to steer the state’s ship in the right direction. Encumbered by blind-dedication to a bloated budget, which itself is the state’s primary problem (with all of its taxes, fees, and mandates), lawmakers have put forth no vision and are stuck in the rut of continuing the policies of stagnation. 

According to ALEC’s Rich States Poor States, top-10 states such as #5 Indiana and #6 North Carolina are the most dramatic examples of states moving up the rankings by reforming their tax codes, as just a few years ago each state was in ALEC’s mid-20s. Conversely, Kansas, which has raised taxes in recent years has fallen from the mid-teens to 27th. 

Among the major factors cited by ALEC in Rich States Poor States leading to Rhode Island’s poor rankings are: 

  • High property tax burdens (47th)
  • High estate taxes (50th)
  • High Debt (46th)
  • High minimum wage (41st)
  • Workers Compensation costs (43rd)
  • Lack of workplace freedom (50th)
  • Unsustainable pension liabilities 

“Because of federal tax reforms, millions of good-paying new jobs are being created and trillions of dollars are being repatriated to US. But given RI’s hostile business climate, we are less likely to see major new capital investment or rapid job gains in our state,” concluded Stenhouse.

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), February 2019: Employment and Jobs Turn Down

Given the short time between reports, only three of the 12 datapoints of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) have changed for February, but the changes are important. After a disappointing downward revision of Rhode Island’s employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) wiped away most of the employment progress Rhode Islanders had made in 2018, February showed an additional downturn. That downturn didn’t change the index ranking or the subrankings, so the Ocean State is still 47th in the country.

Employment was down another 570 people from the first-reported number for January, and the labor force dropped 951. An additional 1,400 jobs based within the state joined the 9,000 that disappeared the month before.

The first chart shows RI remaining last in New England on JOI. Although underlying scores moved, the three measures that changed did not cause any variation in rank from the month before across the country.

In New England, New Hampshire leads the region, in 3rd place, nationally. Vermont remained in 12th place, and Maine in 18th. Massachusetts is still 36th, and Connecticut stands at 42nd.

New England Jobs February 2019 Race To First Place

The second chart shows the gaps between RI and New England and the United States on JOI, both staying about the same. That was true of the third chart, also, which shows the gaps in the official unemployment rate.

United States Jobs February 2019 Scores
Unemployment Rate Rhode Island Jobs February 2019

Results for the three underlying JOI factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (optimism that adequate work is available): RI remained 24th.
  • Freedom Factor (the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI remained 42nd.
  • Prosperity Factor (the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI remained 47th.

See here for the corresponding post focusing on employment from the Ocean State Current.

H5541 is the Bad Bill of the Week. The legisaltion would create a big brother Rhode Island health database to track information - without your consent.

Socialist “Big Brother” Database Bill Infringes on Our Privacy

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity today dubbed H5541 as its Bad Bill of the Week. The Rhode Island Department of Health wants to track sensitive information about you and your family – without your consent. In a state where government already has far too much control over our daily lives, big-brother should not be allowed to systematically track such information about our private lives.

Aimee Gardiner, founder of Rhode Islanders Against Mandated HPV Vaccines and a longtime advocate for medical informed consent, writes in her blog post about the many ways the proposed legislation (H5541) would infringe on our privacy. With the State of Rhode Island already collecting highly personal information about children and their families, the legislation would expand the government’s database to automatically include all adults … under the guise of tracking immunizations … without your knowledge or consent.

“Such an aggressive intrusion by government into our lives should not come as a surprise,” said the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. “Part of  the progressive-socialist agenda is for government to gather as much information as it can about its subjects, so it can someday decide who the winners and losers of its policy mandates should be.”

Further, a question raised by Gardiner asks whether or not this database-tracking is “dollar driven”, with the the Department of Health and/or doctors receiving a kick-back for every vaccination administered from big pharma vaccine manufacturers.

All in all, whether it’s a matter of government control or money, this legislation would violate our privacy without our permission! The medical community prides itself on the ethic of delivering services with “informed” patient-consent. This legislation would also violate that ethic.

If you do not want our state to take yet another step down the #RhodeToSerfdom, you are encouraged to send a note of opposition to your lawmaker, which can quickly and easily be done here:

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.

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity warns state lawmakers not to panic over the recent federal court ruling in Texas that Obamacare is unconstitutional.

Center Asks Lawmakers Not to Panic Over Texas Court Strike-down of Obamacare

Lawmakers Should Not Take Foolish, Knee-Jerk Reaction Steps
Conservative Alternative Plan Soon to Emerge

Providence, RI — The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity warns state lawmakers not to panic over the recent federal court ruling in Texas that Obamacare is unconstitutional.

“The ACA law will remain in effect throughout the lengthy appeals process; and there is also a good chance that the US Supreme Court will overturn the Texas ruling and continue to uphold existing federal healthcare laws,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “It would be foolish to seek to codify Obamacare laws into state law. First, future court decisions are uncertain, and the Supreme Court would never suddenly cancel a law of such magnitude without providing a reasonable period of time for states to react. Second, the future of federal healthcare funding is legitimately in question, and any legislative action at the state level could soon find these same programs defunded at the federal level – Rhode Island could never afford Obamacare laws on its own.”

The Center, which has participated in multiple national meetings about a soon-to-be-introduced conservative alternative, suggests that a furious healthcare debate is again about to take place.

The progressive-left is pushing a fraudulently named “Medicare For All” boondoggle, which is really nothing more than an expansion of government-run Medicaid, with its added new 10%+ payroll tax, and the elimination of private insurance companies and all of their jobs.

The conservative plan, “Healthcare Choices Act” would block-grant to each state its federal share of healthcare funding and would require no new taxes. When combined with its own healthcare resources, states would have the authority to determine how best to help their unique populaces obtain insurance. This private-insurance based program will give patients more choices – at multiple price points – to customize a health insurance plan that works best for their unique situation.

The “Healthcare Choices Act” would continue to offer guaranteed insurance provisions and age-26 family plan protections, while also empowering employers, families, and individuals with expanded choices, and premiums up to 32% lower, with significantly lower deductibles. This plan would also protect the vulnerable. For those who still may not be able to afford the premiums, and for those with pre-existing conditions, generous subsidies would be available to make their chosen plans affordable. When necessary, Medicaid would continue to serve as the safety net.

The Center maintains that Rhode Islanders want to be free to choose plans that best meet their needs and not be limited to arbitrary plans forced upon them by government.

Center Opposes All Three Ballot Questions

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity urges Rhode Island voters to reject all three 2018 ballot bond questions as too costly, near-sighted, and overly geared toward special interests.

Question 1, the largest bond question, would put Rhode Island significantly further into debt by spending a whopping $250 million to repair school buildings (and would ask for another $250 million in 2020), and is also flawed because it:

  • Bails out irresponsible city/town and school officials who have misappropriated existing local tax receipts by neglecting to address school building repairs over the years.
  • Lacks any long-term vision or strategy in planning for the anticipated educational environments of the future.

“Of course, no one wants unsafe schools,” said the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse, “but when we are talking about this much of a new burden on taxpayers, it is imperative that we are strategic in how we deal with this problem.”

More details on Question 1 below.

Question 2 asks taxpayers to fund $70 million in non-vital new higher education facilities that would mostly benefit other states, as far too many of our college and university graduates end up leaving the state in search of meaningful work. Until we develop a growing economy that can absorb new young workers entering the jobs market, this bond spending would not provide a good return on investment.

Question 3, an extension of the RhodeMapRI scheme, advances a dubious green-economy strategy by spending $47.3 million on a multitude of politically correct sustainable-development projects.

Special-Interest Government Spending Does Not Replace Grassroots Development. All three ballot questions are designed to help special-interest cronies. Because of Rhode Island’s dismal business climate, including a burdensome tax and regulatory structure, our state’s economy is not attracting enough grassroots private money for major capital projects. Instead, seeking work and dues from their employees and members, construction company insiders and labor union officials continually pressure government to spend taxpayer money on unnecessary public-works projects. Taxpayers also suffer a “double hit” because, unlike privately-financed projects, these government-funded boondoggles require abnormally high “prevailing wages” and mandate other costly pro-labor mandates.

Already Too Much in Debt. All three ballot questions would worsen an already burdensome debt problem. Historically, Rhode Islanders pass almost all bond questions that make it to the ballot, and no indications have emerged that this election will be any different.  If anything, consensus that the Ocean State’s public schools are in deplorable condition is translating into even-greater-than-usual consensus that we ought to saddle taxpayers with another $250–500 million in debt.

Broadly, Rhode Island is relying too heavily on debt to cover its bills.  The Mercatus Center at George Mason University puts Rhode Island’s long-term liabilities at 90% of the state’s assets, which is higher than the average state.[1]  Truth in Accounting’s State Data Lab gives Rhode Island a D for finances, with $8,288,881,000 in bonds and other liabilities, plus another $4,316,527,000 in pension and other retirement liabilities.[2]  A recent Rhode Island Public Expenditures Council (RIPEC) report finds Rhode Island already among the worst states when it comes to debt per capita and debt per income.[3]

More debt is not the answer to the Ocean State’s problems; it is a major problem in itself.  Adding $589,462,045 in principal and interest by passing the three ballot questions will make it worse.

The State of Rhode Island and its municipalities must be more prudent with the tax dollars they already collect — for example, prioritizing school-building maintenance over more frivolous projects.

More on Question 1. The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity agrees that our education infrastructure is in lamentable shape, but we encourage Rhode Islanders to vote to reject Question 1’s new borrowing on the ballot.

Wrong to “bail out” irresponsible local officials. Focusing on the biggest ballot question — the $250 million school construction bond — the incentives that it would create will be damaging, as well.  Making this money available to local school districts that have been negligent in maintaining their infrastructure will only reinforce their habit of letting basic maintenance slide in order to fund other priorities, like above-market-rate increases to government worker compensation.  The legislation allowing these bonds to go on the ballot provides insufficient incentive for our cities and towns to change their ways. Further, it is unfair to ask state taxpayers to bail out local communities.

What do the “education futurists” say? Taking an even broader view, we should also question the wisdom of making these massive investments when our society is changing so quickly.  What will education look like 20 years from now?  What sorts of spaces will students require?  The weight of debt will hinder Rhode Island’s ability to adapt and to innovate in the future.

The Center does not believe it is prudent to burden Rhode Islanders with decades of new debt in order to rebuild an arguably obsolete, century-old school model, especially when new educational-environment models are rapidly evolving.

Many “education futurists” no longer envision that large and cold school buildings with walled-off classrooms will be how our children will be taught in the coming years. Creating more-productive learning environments that take advantage of ever-evolving Internet and other technologies could mean that home-based or large online-lecture type instruction may increasingly become the norm. This educational vision would require a far different kind of school campus than what this half-a-billion taxpayer-funded bond might be wasted on.

The Center is not aware of, but is open to review, any kind of long-term strategic educational plan that would justify massive investment in a potentially soon-to-be defunct school model.

In recognition of National Employee Freedom Week (Aug 19 - 25), and despite the state's attempt to shield public employees from becoming aware of their rights, we have launched our My Pay My Say RI public awareness campaign and our website to educate about public employees rights.

Center Launches “My Pay My Say RI” Campaign to Inform Public Employees of Their Restored Rights

Government Unions and Political Cronies Seek to Keep Public Servants in the Dark

Public Education Will Be Biggest Beneficiary!

Many have already opted out!

Providence, RI – In recognition of National Employee Freedom Week (Aug 19 – 25), and despite the state’s attempt to shield public employees from becoming aware of their rights, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity today launched its My Pay My Say RI public awareness campaign on its website.

The campaign is designed to inform public servants of their recently restored first Amendment rights, as ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Janus v AFSCME case. A consistent champion of constitutional rights for all citizens, the Center believes public employees deserve to know that they now have full freedom when it comes to deciding whether or not it is in their best interest to pay union dues; and that they cannot be recriminated against if they choose to leave. Prior to the Janus ruling, all state and municipal employees in Rhode Island were forceed to pay their government-designated unions as a condition of employment.

However, the Supreme Court has decided that because it is their pay, union membership – or not – is rightfully the say of every public worker; especially when workers may disagree with their union’s political advocacy, which is paid for with their dues money.

Case in point is Michelle, a municipal employee in the Ocean State, who opted-out right after the Janus ruling and who said: “I don’t understand why some of my friends continue to pay their dues despite their political views being completely opposite of what the union supports.”

The Center has partnered with the $10 million national education and outreach campaign, My Pay My Say, to launch a customized Rhode Island initiative. “Despite the governor’s and the unions’ efforts to keep public employees in the dark, our Center and our national partner have already accumulated tens of thousands of email and mailing addresses of government workers. We expect to contact them in the coming weeks and ongoing for years,” said the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. “We have raised enough money to fund phase I of our campaign, which will include thousands of direct mail pieces. The more money we raise, the more awareness we can create.”

The Center believes that public education will be the greatest beneficiary of the Janus ruling. Because unions can no longer force teachers who disagree with them to fund bargaining positions that tie the hands of educators, teachers will be empowered with a stronger voice to fight against ineffective policies.

The website includes educational information for public employees, with a dedicated section for teachers, and will soon include information on the political spending of certain government unions. The website also includes a page for workers to tell their story if they have unsuccessfully tried to leave their union or have received unsatisfactory responses to inquiries of their employer or union officials.

“We respect each person’s right to make an informed decision. It’s unfortunate that unions and their government allies do not,” added Stenhouse. “Based on history in right-to-work states, unions will go to great lengths to obfuscate the truth and make it as difficult as possible for workers to exercise their rights. We have already been contacted by workers who were brushed aside when making honest inquiries about the Supreme Court ruling.”

The website further includes links to an opt-out page where an official letter, requesting exit from the individual’s specific union, can be automatically created and printed, as well as links to a page where individuals can indicate that they choose to remain in their union.

The Center’s multi-year ‘worker freedom’ campaign in the Ocean State had a soft-launch in July and, already, many public employees have opted to leave their union, deciding to keep more of their paychecks for their own families. Ongoing, the My Pay My Say RI campaign will include email, direct mail, traditional and digital advertising, as well as other outreach vehicles.

For more information visit the website or follow us on Twitter at @MyPayMySayRI.

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity has submitted a public comment on the proposed change to prevent portions of Medicaid payments to third parties for benefits. This change would have dramatic results on the home care unionization rule.

Center Submits Public Comment On Rule Change To Protect The Home Care Industry From Attempted Unionization

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity has submitted a public comment on the proposed rule that would remove a state’s ability to reassign portions of Medicaid payments to third parties for benefits such as health insurance, skills training, and other benefits customary for employees. 

From: “” <>
Sent: 8/6/2018 12:24:20 PM
Subject: Your Comment Submitted on (ID: CMS-2018-0090-0001)

Regulations LogoYour comment was submitted successfully!

Comment Tracking Number: 1k2-94p4-ty5d

Agency: Centers for Medicare Medicaid Services (CMS)

Document Type: Rulemaking
Title: Medicaid Program: Reassignment of Medicaid Provider Claims: CMS-2413-P
Document ID: CMS-2018-0090-0001

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, a 501-C-3 public policy think tank in Rhode Island, respectfully submits comment in support of the proposed rule that would remove the regulatory text at 42 CFR 447.10(g)(4) that allows a state to reassign portions of a provider’s payment to third parties for benefits such as health insurance, skills training, and other benefits customary for employees.

Our comment uses as an example a real-life scenario made possible by 2018 Rhode Island legislation that was signed into law earlier this year … allowing for attempted unionization of the home care industry. This private industry in our state, which now successfully provides vital services, could be decimated.

This proposed Medicaid Provider Reassignment Regulation Proposed Rule, would mean that the government can no longer aid unions in their attempt to skim dues from precious Medicaid dollars, intended for the care of our loved ones.

In Rhode Island, about 7500 or so private home care workers are already represented by about 45 private-employer agencies as well as by a statewide association, the RI Partnership for Homecare. These service providers do not consider themselves to be government workers and most of these workers do NOT want to become a quasi-government employee.

The Rhode Island Partnership for Home Care, which oversees most of these private agencies, believes that government-run home care would destabilize the industry.
It is also morally unjust that federal dollars, earmarked for home care services, could have dues automatically siphoned-off by state government unions from workers’ paychecks, then transferred to the unions, with some of the funds ending-up in the political campaign coffers of SEIU. If the proposed rule is enacted, it would be just and proper that 100% of the allocated federal funding for home care services should first go to the workers; and it would then be up to the unions to collect dues – on their own – from those who freely choose to join.Earlier this summer, after a major push by SEIU and other progressive activists, legislation that had been on the back burner was rammed through Rhode Island’s General Assembly and signed by the Governor. This new law could transfer control of the home care services industry from the private sector to the government and its union allies. This proposed rule, by removing the government as its potential partner, would create less of an incentive for SEIU to attempt to unionize this industry.At the same time, the burden on state taxpayers would rise, as the government would surely provide frivolous and unnecessary benefits to allow unions to offer a more compelling reason to unionize.

The new law in Rhode Island seeks to lure home care workers, most of whom are now employed under a successfully operating private ‘agency’ system, to register with the government, becoming quasi-public employees, with their names and other personal information then to be turned over to SEIU labor bosses for the purposes of unionization efforts. A very similar approach was taken in 2013 to unionize the home child care industry; since then, union negotiated – and taxpayer funded – costs to support this industry have since risen dramatically.

This new Rhode Island law is a blatant money and power grab by unions that would crush a smoothly performing private agency system that is providing high quality home care to elderly, Medicaid, and other patients; and essentially turn over control of this industry to overly politicized and incompetent government bureaucrats. The training standards and strict oversight now required of nursing and other home care professionals would be greatly diminished.

Implementation of this proposed federal rule would remove the likelihood that government could insert itself between patients and their home care service providers.

The Center also points out how implementation of this proposed rule would create additional synergy with the direction that the nation is now heading, following landmark Janus decision, which would end the forced unionization and fee payments by public employees. As our country moves towards more freedom and less governmental control over our lives, Americans are experiencing renewed levels of prosperity. Enactment of this rule would maintain this momentum by keeping our state’s home care industry smoothly running under private management and away from the inefficiencies of the political elite and their special-interest allies.