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Travis Rowley: As Goes Providence

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Decreasing the amount of parking minutes a quarter will buy for people in Downtown Providence – from 15 minutes down to 12 – seems to have failed to shore up the City’s finances. Providence Mayor Angel Taveras informed Providence residents this week during his 2013-2014 budget presentation that “the average residential property will see a 6 percent increase in their tax bill” next year.

But at least the math adds up. GoLocalProv.com reported that “the mayor's proposed budget outlines spending [at] $663 million – an increase of more than 3% over 2012-2013 spending.”

More spending, of course, means more taxes.

And at least the narrative is coherent. As we’ve been told, “As goes Providence, so goes Rhode Island.”

So, while Providence has “more than one in three children…liv[ing] in poverty,” it’s little wonder that “more than a fifth of children in Rhode Island are living in poverty, and over 10 percent are in extreme poverty.” It simply makes sense that “nearly one of every five Rhode Islanders” are now nourishing themselves via food stamps, even though in 2010 the Providence Journal reported that “1 in 7 [Rhode Islanders] are relying on the government food stamp program..”

It seems the Democrat-run capital city is leading the way.

What Cap?

During his budget presentation Taveras said, “We have increased the non-owner occupied residential tax rate in next year’s budget to $33.75 per thousand from effectively $27.11 per thousand.”

That’s a 24.5% tax increase.

“We have also increased the owner-occupied residential tax rate from effectively $15.95 per thousand to $19.50 per thousand."

That’s a 22.3% tax increase.

Where does Taveras get 6% from?

It might have something to do with how Taveras explained the 5.25% tax hike he proposed in 2011, which translated to “a 13% increase in property taxes because the [5.25%] increase in the tax levy means in overall taxes."

That was in addition to making you rush back to your car three minutes earlier.

But the math hardly matters when it comes to the following question: What happened to the statewide property-tax cap?

Several years ago, former chairman of the RI Democratic Party Bill Lynch boasted that his party had “led the charge for the establishment of a property-tax cap” – a law that should now restrict municipalities from raising taxes more than 4% per year.

The Democrats’ property-tax cap was always a sham.

As I wrote in 2011 – when Taveras was again soaring past the cap while also asking non-Providence residents to further subsidize Providence failures – “It isn’t illegal at all for cities and towns to raise taxes [beyond the cap]. There have always been a number of circumstantial exceptions available to a municipality that wishes to raise its property taxes above the cap. Struggling to balance Providence’s books, all that Mayor Angel Taveras has to do is “appeal to the state Auditor General to certify the ‘existence or anticipated existence’ of a financial emergency.” And if 12 of the 15 City Council members – all Democrats – approve Taveras’ tax hike, then the tax cap can be legally evaded.”

So, basically, in order to bypass the Democrats’ property-tax cap, all the government has to do is ask the government for permission. Better yet, in order to bypass the Democrats’ property-tax cap, all Democrats have to do is get permission from other Democrats.

Democratic Dishonor

All throughout the state pension reform controversy we heard this over and over again from union advocates: “A promise made should be a promise kept.”

Does this principle still resonate with the Rhode Island Left now that taxes are being raised to protect their employment levels, pensions, pay, and healthcare?

Wasn’t the statewide property-tax cap a virtual promise made to the taxpayers? Will labor leaders be holding a Statehouse rally on behalf of those people who fund the Providence government?

Or are promises and contracts suddenly negotiable, as long as honoring them inflicts financial strain on government unions?

As Taveras explained, “Providence’s school budget is increasing $8 million. Providence’s public safety budget and the City’s pension and health care costs represent almost all of the remaining $12 million in increased spending next year…Our budgeted pension and health care costs are increasing by $9 million in the coming year. And they will increase about 3.5 percent every year after that."

What a shock. No wonder, all of a sudden, promises don’t have to be kept.

What else are we to conclude other than this: Those who constitute the ranks of organized labor are not honorable individuals. And neither are the Democratic politicians who do their bidding.


Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is the author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of the Rhode Island Left.


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