NEW: GOP Candidate Block Unveils Plan to “Fix Rhode Island”

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


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Ken Block

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Block today unveiled his "Block Plan" at Taco, Inc. to "rebuild our economy and create new jobs, improve government efficiencies, and rebuild fairness and trust."

Saying that Rhode Island is in the "National Hall of Shame", being number one in the nation in unemployment -- and near dead last in job creating business environment -- Block outlined the specifics to a roomful of supporters at the Cranston HVAC facility.

Block Plan Outlined

Following Taco's John Hazen White opening the event, Block addressed the "fundamental changes" he sees necessary to fix Rhode Island, which include three major overview areas.

"Rhode Island is in peril," said Block. "We have an economic crisis."  The highlights of Block's plan are the following:  

"Rebuild our economy and create new jobs"

  • Decrease the car tax by 30%: Provide smart savings incentives for municipalities. Get money back to working families. Allocate $50 million in state aid, and provide a 2:1 match to municipalities that find cost savings through shared services or other measures. Use this combination of funding ($75 million) to increase the minimum car tax exemption in all municipalities.
  • Reduce the corporate tax rate from 9% to 7%. Make Rhode Island the best place for new businesses. We can attract new businesses and create jobs with the lowest corporate tax rate in New England.
  • Eliminate the $500 minimum corporate tax. Preserve capital to help new companies grow. No minimum corporate tax for new businesses in their first two years.
  • Reform the death tax. Help seniors stay here and family-owned businesses stay that way. Increase the estate tax exemption to $2.5 million and reduce the top rate to 12%
  • Test a reduced sales tax zone in one of Rhode Island’s border communities.
  • Improve the Capital gains tax exemption. Exempt from future taxation any capital gains realized on new investments in RI-based businesses.

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John Hazen White

"Improve government efficiencies"

  • Fix the temporary disability program. $200-$400 into the pockets of working Rhode Islanders annually
  • Fix the unemployment insurance system. One of the worst-ranked systems in the country
  • Fix DMV, and focus on all the other opportunities for savings like paper time cards.

"Rebuild Fairness & Trust"

  • Establish a line-item veto for the Governor: 44 states have. We need it
  • Re-empower the Ethics Commission:Oversight over the General Assembly ensures accountability.
  • Abolish the master lever: Remove this obsolete and damaging mechanism from our ballots.
  • Transparency in the legislative process: End the secret deals, late-night and last-minute lawmaking.

"Bold and specific plans are the foundation of positive action. Now is the time for bold action," said Block. "I'm an entrepreneur, and entrepreneurs don't accept the status quo." 


Related Slideshow: 10 Questions Block Has to Answer When Running for Gov of RI

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10. Can Block convince voters he is more than a third party player?


To win in the GOP primary, Block is going to need to convince GOP primary voters that his ideals align with the fundamental beliefs of the Republican Party. 


He did get a political gift.  As GoLocalProv reported - Blocks opponent in the GOP primary, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung has been a consistent donor for a decade to many of the top Democrats in the Party.


Both Block and Fung will be challenged to explain their GOP credentials.

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9. Is Block too much of a techno-candidate?


Block, the founder of a software company, love to talk about technology solutions to public policy problems. He is going to have to define his solutions to problems in a tangible way.  Often, voters connect to simple themes, "Hope and Change" or from "Head Start to Harvard." 


Block is going to need to be able to show he can connect to all Rhode Islanders - we are a retail political state.

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8. Can Block raise money?


Block has demonstrated he is serious about running - he has already invested $500,000 of his own money to win the GOP primary, but he will need an estimated $3 million to win the primary and General Election next November.


To date, his fundraising base has been small and while Fung is no Gina Raimondo in fundraising, he does have a modest Republican fundraising base.

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7. Will Block defend the behavior of National Republicans?


If 15 months from now Ted Cruz works tirelessly to close the federal government over the implementation of Obamacare, will GOP Governor Ken Block speak out on the issue? 


Will Block praise or criticize Cruz? In the primary, conservative voters may want him to praise Cruz and in the General election, the majority of voters may want him to condemn Cruz.

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6. Can Block attract RI GOP leaders?


A few weeks ago Fung announced an advisory group of prominent Republicans.  The announcement gave Fung's efforts some momentum. Block would pick up a lot of credibility if he were to peel some Fung supporters over to his team.


In addition, a number of leading Republicans have yet to make an announcement - if they break to Block it may create momentum.

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5. Can Block connect with voters in the General Election?


Assuming Block beat Fung in a GOP primary and went on to face a progressive Democrat like Providence Mayor Angel Taveras or rising star Clay Pell, can Block work the Greek Festival in Cranston or the Scituate Art Festival as well as these Democrats?


Will undecided voters connect to Block?

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4. Will Block's lack of previous elected office help or hinder?


It can be argued that never having been elected before could be perceived as a negative.


Sure, Governor Don Carcieri was never previously elected to office and Governor Bruce Sundlun had only been elected to the state's Constitutional Congress, but voters may want to be sure that Block will know a federal emergency declaration from a new software version - or will each new storm be deemed Sandy 2.0 and so on.

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3. Is Block the smartest guy in the room?


Make no mistake about it, Block is smart. Business smart, policy smart, but could he be too smart and then not be able to connect to voters.


Bill Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar (so was Gina Raimondo), but one thing about Bill Clinton was that he could play the role of a good ol' boy as good as anyone. He could make any voter feel right at home.


Block will need to channel his intelligence into a language and approach that connects to the CEO he is asking to support his effort as equally as asking a unemployed mom in Pawtucket.

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2. How will he handle the plethora of special interests?


This time Block will have to answer the questionnaire from the FOP, the Right-to-Life groups, the Environment Council, MADD, the Teamsters, The Northern RI Chamber of Commerce, NEA-RI, arts advocacy groups, the NAACP, and you get the picture.


Consistency will matter. One group's endorsement will spark another groups condemnation. Mr. Block, welcome to the 2014 governor's race.

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1. Can he handle the hot lights?


The one thing about being the third or fourth candidate in a race is people remember the smart things you said, but don't pay much attention to the dumb things you said. Heck, you really didn't have a real chance to win so the assessment is not very stringent.


This time will be different. He needs to run not one but two nearly flawless races to be the next Governor of Rhode Island. His effort in 2010 will help him, but this time he has a real chance to win and the stakes are much higher


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