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Rhode Island Ranked Third Worst State in Country to Retire

Friday, January 13, 2012


Rhode Island is once again near the bottom of a national ranking, this time for those looking to retire.

The website topretirements.com released its annual “Worst States to Retire” list and the Ocean State finished third, with only Connecticut and Illinois being labeled as worse. The website blamed the state’s high taxes as the prime reason for such a poor ranking.

“The Ocean State has severely underfunded pension/health liabilities and budget deficits. It has the 5th highest median property taxes paid,” the website said. “Our prototypical couple would face much higher income taxes here than they would in most other states. It does have some great places to live, thanks to its extensive coastline and numerous bays and harbors.”

With the exception of New Hampshire, every state in New England makes the list, including Vermont and Massachusetts, which finished fourth and fifth respectively. Maine finished ninth.

Nothing New

According to the website, the ranking is based around five factors: Fiscal health, property taxes, income taxes, cost of living, and climate.

Rhode Island GOP chairman Patrick Sweeney said the new ranking is just another black eye for a state is still facing a fiscal crisis. Sweeney said it’s time to lower taxes to both keep people from leaving the state as well as bring in new businesses and residents.

“This is nothing new to Republicans. We have one of the highest total tax burdens in the country due to the reckless spending of Rhode Island Democrats and we have nothing to show for it,” he said. “We need to lower our tax base and entice those outside of the state to reside here. As Senator Rubio says, ‘we need more taxpayers, not more taxes.’”

Sweeney blamed Democrats in the Ocean State for overspending.

“It boils down to simple math,” he said. “If you bring in 1 dollar of tax revenue, then you can only spend 1 dollar…not 2. But as the 70 year history of the Democratic majority in the General Assembly has shown, they like to spend more. Until we elect more Republicans, we are going to continue to live this fiscal nightmare.”

Study: Housing the Reason People Leave

But others say the state’s high taxes aren’t driving retirees away, contrary to popular belief. A study produced last summer by Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted that over the last decade, only 1.7 percent of Americans moved from one state to another and that the top reason why people move has more to do with affordable housing than it does taxes.

“A family might be able to cut its taxes by a few percentage points by moving from one state to another, but housing costs are far more variable. The difference between housing costs in two different states is often many times greater than the difference in taxes. So what might look like migration in search of lower taxes is really often migration for cheaper housing.

National Education Association Government Relations Director Patrick Crowley, who has been an outspoken critic of the notion that residents are leaving Rhode Island because of taxes, said working class families are hurt more by taxes in the state than the wealthy.

“Anyone who talks about the taxes Rhode Islanders pay but doesn't talk about the difference in rate paid by the rich and the working class is only telling part of the story,” he said. “We are only a high tax state for working people, for the rich, RI is a great deal. To improve our economy and make Rhode Island more attractive for retirees we need to raise taxes on the 1%."

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