Prosperity Agenda for Rhode Island


Imagine Interstate 95 jammed with the traffic of families and businesses flowing into Rhode Island instead of out because it is the most popular state for those who wish to succeed and build their families and careers … making the Ocean State their home. 

Imagine Rhode Island as the shining city on the hill, with unbounded pride and hope for a bright and prosperous future.

Repeal or Rollback of Harmful Laws Should Be Goal of 2015 Session

Looking ahead to the 2014 legislative session, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity recommends that the General Assembly should not set as its goal the creation of new laws, but rather, the repeal or rollback of existing laws.

Under the premise that the Rhode Island has implemented dozens of taxes and regulations over the years that have proven harmful to the state’s economy and job creation, the Center believes that the most productive path for legislators would be to clear many of these destructive statutes from the books.

“We have a very bad habit of self-inflicting legislative wounds on our own economy,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “High levels of spending, requiring onerous taxes and fees, are the root cause of our economic woes,” he continued. “We must repeal or roll back many of these laws, and we must cut spending. We can do this — it is allowed.”

The recommendations below are merely a starting point. There are dozens of other reforms that are also needed. Over the coming months and years, our Center will add new policy recommendations to this Prosperity Agenda.

Near Term — Laws that should be repealed or rolled back in 2015

1) Repeal of the state sales tax: the centerpiece of our Prosperity Agenda, which would create over 25,000 new jobs.

2) Elimination of barriers to school choice: repeal or rollback of the requirement that families have no school choice, even if their children are condemned to attend schools in their zip codes that are failing them; and provision of information to dispel myths about empowering parents with choice.

3) Repeal of the state’s punitive estate tax: keeping wealth and business investment in our state and expanding our tax base. (see which states have estate taxes)

4) Healthcare Freedom Act (part 1)

5) Repeal of the $500 minimum franchise tax: stopping a disincentive to entrepreneurship.

6) Rollback of corporate welfare and other tax credit programs: not bailing out the 38 Studios moral obligation bonds, saving budget money, reducing cronyism and corruption, maintaining a level playing field, and defunding the state’s capacity to risk taxpayer dollars on private sector businesses.

7) Rollback of renewable portfolio mandates on energy: eliminating another drag on our economy and reducing the cost of energy for households and businesses, now artificially raised by these mandates.

Long Term – Other reforms to be considered in 2015 or in future years

Rhode Island also suffers from “death by a thousand cuts” syndrome, where dozens upon dozens of laws create barriers to economic growth in our state. Tearing down some of the barriers suggested below are a good start:

8) Establish RI as a “right to work” state: providing increased worker freedom as a major competitive advantage in attracting new businesses to our state.

See Heritage Foundation analysis here …

9) Healthcare Freedom Act (part 2) Implement market-based reforms to complement ObamaCare and the health insurance exchange. As Rhode Island and the nation move forward with implementation of the Affordable Care Act, significant challenges remain regarding access to affordable, quality care while many other issues will be left unaddressed … solution? A Health Care Freedom Act.

10) Bright Today Educational Reforms: would increase the educational opportunities and freedom of Rhode Island’s students, especially the disadvantaged.

  • Real grading of schools would grade all public schools in straightforward, universally understood method: A, B, C, D, F.

11) Implement tort reform: would include medical malpractice reforms and a criminal intent provision that protects the innocent.

12 ) Resist raising the minimum wage: would save existing jobs, especially for teens and low income families, and would reduce the cost of doing business in Rhode Island for many businesses.

13) Reduce occupational licensing mandates: includes five ideas that would open career opportunities and reduce the costs of services without sacrificing consumer safety.

14) Require “Truth in Pension Accounting”: would require municipal and state governments to utilize more realistic accounting assumptions in evaluating and reporting pension liabilities.

15) Enact collective bargaining reforms for public employees: would encourage public versus private sector compensation parity, limit the scope of labor contracts, and reduce monopolistic negotiating advantages, potentially saving over $250 million per year for Rhode Island.

16) Rollback of corporate and income tax rates to further stimulate economic growth.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE; September 5, 2012

A Prosperity Agenda for Rhode Island

Tearing Down the Barriers to Success

With a vision of Interstate 95 jammed with human and capital resources returning to the Ocean State, and as a follow-up to its report yesterday that Rhode Island is suffering from the most dire jobs outlook in the nation, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity published today a Prosperity Agenda for Rhode Island, a set of pro-growth reforms in twelve critical policy areas designed to put the state back on a road to success.

“While our political leaders remain silent about the jobs crisis we face here in Rhode Island, our Center is suggesting proactive, well-researched solutions to move our state forward,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity. “Other states are aggressively reforming public policy to allow for more opportunities for their citizens, and we must learn from their example in order to keep pace.”

In seeking to provide families with more security about their future finances, the Center’s Prosperity Agenda would eliminate many government created ‘barriers to success,’ putting forth policy recommendations in three general areas: spending reforms to reduce the scope of government and related corruption; tax reforms to spur economic growth; and regulatory reforms to free up individuals to be able to work and learn more freely and to unleash businesses to innovate and produce. With these reforms, tens of thousands of new jobs can be created in Rhode Island, according to the Center.

“It is important that citizens and policymakers understand that there are indeed steps we can take to improve our lot. That there are positive solutions to our state’s problems. That most of these solutions have been successful in other states. And that someone is actually looking out for you. These solutions are pro-business, pro-worker, pro-education, and pro-taxpayer ,”added Stenhouse.

The Prosperity Agenda is comprised of both high-impact, game-changing reforms as well as other policies to reverse what the Center refers to as ‘death by a thousand cuts syndrome.’ In virtually all cases, the reforms roll back existing laws that restrict economic or educational freedoms for individuals and businesses.

The high-impact reforms suggested are: elimination of the state sales tax, establishment of RI as a right-to-work state, and replacement of federally controlled health insurance exchanges with a Healthcare Freedom Act.

Other reforms are also put forth in the areas of education, corporate welfare, tort reform, the estate tax, occupational licensing, the minimum wage, renewable energy mandates, truth in pension accounting, and the collective bargaining process.

All policy reform recommendations are supported by policy briefs or detailed research published over the past year by the Center or to be released in the coming months.

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, a non-partisan public policy think tank, is the state’s leading free-enterprise advocacy organization. With a credo that freedom is indispensable to citizens’ well-being and prosperity, the Center’s mission is to stimulate a rigorous exchange of ideas with the goal of restoring competitiveness to Rhode Island through the advancement of market-based reform solutions.