NEW: Watson Calls for Woonsocket Tax Hike Vote to be Postponed
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Former House Minority Leader Robert Watson is calling on House Speaker Gordon Fox to postpone today’s vote to allow Woonsocket to impose a 13 percent supplemental tax hike on property owners.
"Recently, in an interview with a local news reporter, I reiterated my long held concern and belief that our legislative process often relies upon closed door meetings and quick fix solutions. As we fast approach the final days of this legislative session, I am mindful of several major issues that seem to be falling into that pattern and being addressed in that fashion. The annual budget, while having been provided a vetting in Finance Committee these past several months, remains a mystery. Given the many challenging factors involving fiscal matters which our state confronts, a briefing of the members as to potential solutions would be a good idea. The sooner the better.
"Recently it was announced that a casino revenue sharing bill would emerge following months of closed door negotiations. Again, with the infamous “slippage language” that currently hogties our state to the existing casino operations, I am concerned about what type of leverage we had when negotiating terms of such a deal. A full briefing on this matter is long overdue.
"Lastly, there has been much discussion about solutions for the City of Woonsocket’s present fiscal predicament. The proposed legislation requesting that state lawmakers approve a property tax increase is the definition of a “quick fix solution.” Allowing the Woonsocket City Council to impose a supplemental tax to shore up city finances and avoid, for the time being, a state-appointed receiver from taking over is merely putting off the inevitable. Passing such a bill for Woonsocket will send the wrong signal to the other eight cities and towns who face serious financial challenges and will lead to other communities to request the same indulgence. In other words, many other taxpayers will be asked to pay more taxes to solve a problem that requires more than tax increases to cure.
"I would ask that the Woonsocket Tax Increase bill be recommitted to House Finance Committee and that our chamber commit itself to a comprehensive review of all municipalities that require extraordinary assistance in addressing their systemic fiscal problems. In that regard I am certain I stand with many of my House colleagues willing to help in any responsible and fiscally prudent way we can."