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Travis Rowley: There’s Another Way

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Over two years ago the RI Young Republicans crafted a mission statement that informed Rhode Islanders that “the common elected official in Rhode Island still only knows one method of curing the State’s ailment – increase taxes even more.”

And it looks like the kids got it right.

Facing town and state budget deficits, and presiding as elected representatives in already one of the highest-taxed states in the country, members of the reigning RI Democrat Party have been proposing scores of tax and fee increases as their primary means of solving the State’s fiscal matters all year long.

The Democrats’ unfunded mandates are forcing towns and cities to raise car and property taxes. Rep. Larry Valencia (D) is fighting for income tax hikes on Rhode Islanders making over $200,000 a year. Senator Harold Metts (D) and Rep. Scott Guthrie (D) are seconding Valencia’s plan. Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D) is seeking to impose taxes on large businesses. Sen. Elizabeth Crowley (D) has proposed a new luxury tax on fine clothing. Rep. Edith Ajello (D) is sponsoring a bill that would tax sweetened soft drinks. Rep. Art Handy (D) and Sen. Josh Miller (D) have led the way toward looking into a car mileage tax. Members of the General Assembly are also giving serious consideration to new highway tolls, and their current budget proposal would expand the minimum corporate tax. Democrats have joined Governor Chafee in doubling beach parking fees, and extracting more money from the private sector by expanding the state’s sales tax. In addition to all of this, previously tax-exempt hospitals and universities now have tax targets on their backs as well.

Democrats have been, once again, scouring Rhode Island for anything that can “generate revenue.”

The Size of Government

There is a stark alternative to the Democrats’ weak-minded recklessness. Last election season, as the conservative Tea Party held signs that read “TEA – Taxed Enough Already,” Republican candidate for governor John Robitaille repeated as often as he could, “Rhode Island doesn’t have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem.” Ocean State government does too much, for too many people, too ineffectively, and too expensively. Ronald Reagan’s words from 1981 still ring true: “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.”
But the progressive now sitting on the gubernatorial throne tells us, “There’s not a whole lot more to cut.” Amazingly, this is Governor Chafee’s message to the taxpayers: This is your government. Like it, or leave it.

Well, Rhode Islanders have been choosing to leave it. The practice of redistributing billions of dollars each year for the benefit of welfare recipients, illegal aliens, government employees, and other special interests has proven to be too much for the average Rhode Islander to handle. It’s just as Margaret Thatcher once opined, “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money.”

While Rhode Island’s economy sputters, The Economist informs its readers that people are moving to Republican-run Texas in “droves,” escaping from more oppressive state governments. Democratically-run California (one big Rhode Island) recently sent their leaders to Texas for “tips on how to better their economy.”

Improving an economy isn’t that difficult. Just don’t elect Democrats.

The Republican Alternative

Chafee’s notion that Rhode Island is stuck at its current levels of government girth is a lie. Ocean State government could be cut in half tomorrow if the right people were holding elected office. After Chafee received a public lashing for proposing a budget that included $165 million in new taxes, even tax-happy Democrats managed to find about $148 million in cost reductions.

While Chafee and the Democrats remain allergic to impactful spending cuts, Rep. Doreen Costa (R) is following the lead of Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott by introducing legislation that would require all welfare recipients to be tested for drug use – a bill that simply enforces the idea that taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize reckless lifestyles. No doubt, Costa will face resistance from Democrats.

The next step for Rep. Costa should be to follow in the footsteps of former Republican Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, who demanded reapplication for public benefits and the adoption of a “workfare” model. The results of Giuliani’s reforms according to the Washington Post were this: “After the city began seriously tightening eligibility and requiring welfare parents to go to work, more than 280,000 [people] dropped off the rolls.” Billions of dollars remained in the pockets of industrious people, spawning job growth and preventing the need for more tax increases. Less people needed government assistance.

That’s Republicanism.

Democrats refer to such measures as “tough decisions.” But these decisions are only “tough” for Democrats because the recipients of government funds just happen to be the same people who help Democrats remain in power. These decisions are not difficult at all for Republicans, who are already despised by the government class – public unions and the poverty industry.

Things don’t have to be this miserable. Rhode Island could be Texas. You just have to dethrone the Democrats.

Travis Rowley is chairman of the RI Young Republicans and a consultant for the Barry Hinckley Campaign for US Senate.


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