The Scoop - Fung: Here’s How to Make RI More Competitive

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

 

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Welcome to The Scoop, the 4 p.m. report on everything politics in Rhode Island – the inside daily report exclusively on GoLocalProv.com.

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Fung: RI's Entire Tax Stucture Needs to be Examined

In light of last week’s meeting of the newly formed sales tax study commission, GoLocal reached out to Rhode Island’s 2014 gubernatorial candidates to see whether they support reducing or eliminating the state’s sales tax.

Today, GoLocal spoke to likely Republican candidate Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, who announced the formation of an exploratory committee for a potential run for Governor last week.

As far as Fung is concerned, the state’s entire tax structure should be assessed, not just its sales tax.

"I do support a reduction in sales tax to make us more competitive with our neighboring states and eventually the Northeast as a whole,” Fung told GoLocal. “However, we also need to evaluate our tax structure as a whole and not just the sales tax. There is a direct correlation between Rhode Island being perennially ranked as one of the highest tax burden states and one of the least business friendly states. Reducing our tax burden and nurturing business should be our top priority. We need to focus on making Rhode Island more attractive to not only retain the current businesses we have, but to also let other business owners know that Rhode Island is Open for Business."

Click here to read Moderate Party candidate Ken Block's take on Rhode Island's sales tax dilemma.

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Sen. DiPalma Recaps Yesterday’s Joint Commission on Shared Municipal Services Meeting

The Joint Commission on Shared Municipal Services met on Tuesday for an update on its public safety dispatch and tax collection surveys. The meeting also included a presentation by Yolanda Kodrzycki, vice president and director of the New England Public Policy Center at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, on regional consolidation in New England.

Commission Co-chairman Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist.12, Middletown, Newport, Little Compton, Tiverton) told GoLocal that the presentation was not only informative, but may also be vital in helping Rhode Island achieve its goal of shared services.

“The commission heard an insightful presentation on the work accomplished at the Federal Reserve by Yolanda Kodrzycki that directly compliments our goals. We are fortunate to have organizations like the Federal Reserve to do the data-driven work they do. The commission is following the schedule initially put in place to have a shared services model for Rhode Island developed by the end of 2014. The next full commission meeting will be held in two months, following our commitment to meet bimonthly, while the two advisory committees, one focused on public safety dispatch and the other on tax collection, meet monthly. That next meeting is on Tuesday, September 24.”

The commission, which was created to explore the feasibility of sharing municipal services among cities, towns, and school districts across Rhode Island, is also co-chaired by Rep. Robert D. Phillips (D-Dist. 51, Woonsocket, Cumberland).

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Baldelli-Hunt Calls for Crack Down on Absentee Landlords in Woonsocket

Lisa Baldelli-Hunt has unveiled the latest piece of her economic development plan for Woonsocket, calling for a new approach that targets blight in the city’s neighborhoods and clamps down on absentee landlords who fail to maintain their properties.

Baldelli-Hunt said that as Mayor, she would implement a strategy she advocated back in January 2009 when Woonsocket received more than $1 million federal funds through the state’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program. At that time, she called on city officials to adopt a strategic approach that went beyond using the money to make short-term cosmetic improvements to mostly non-owner-occupied multi-family houses only to see them become run down again.

City officials ultimately passed on Baldelli-Hunt’s plan to use fund to acquire and clean up dangerous, abandoned, run-down properties. Since then, there have been over 500 foreclosures in Woonsocket (according to HousingWorksRI), which Baldelli-Hunt argues, has compounded the problem.

“There are state laws which allow the city to go after dangerous, boarded-up properties which are a blight on our neighborhoods,” said Baldelli-Hunt. “These properties reduce surrounding home values, force responsible home owners out of their own neighborhoods and keep new businesses from entering Woonoscket. We need to effectively target problem properties and ramp up our enforcement efforts on absentee landlords who ignore housing code violations and fail to maintain their properties. I will provide the active, strong leadership we need to make Woonsocket a great and affordable place to live.”

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Paiva Weed and Fox Envision RI as a ‘State of the Arts’

Rhode Island is on the precipice of becoming a “state of the arts,” according to a new op-ed written by Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed and House Speaker Gordon Fox. In the letter, Paiva Weed and Fox tout the General Assembly’s continued support of the small business community—particularly its artistic sector—through various legislative efforts.

“The General Assembly continues to recognize and prioritize the critical impact that small businesses possess as powerful economic engines in building culturally vibrant communities for future generations. Within Rhode Island’s small business community is the rich and diverse creative sector that encompasses nationally distinguished organizations as well as hidden gems with over 3,000 arts-related businesses that employ more than 13,000 individuals statewide. From galleries to acclaimed performing arts establishments, the creative sector continues to grow and flourish in the Ocean State.”

Specifically, Paiva Weed and Fox highlight several legislative measures—including the expansion of the statewide sales tax exemption to the purchase and sale of original works of art; the creation of the RI State of the Arts Planning Task Force, which is tasked with identifying specific action steps that can be taken to attract, retain, support, expand and market the arts and associated creative industries in Rhode Island; and the establishment of the “Made in Rhode Island Manufacturing Collaborative.”

“We are all collective partners in these efforts—the Senate and House, Governor Chafee’s administration, the non-profit sector, and the business community,” concludes the letter. “With all of us working together, our vision for Rhode Island to become “the state of the arts” will become a reality.”

Recap of Today's Capital Committee Meeting on Military and EMA Budgets

This morning, the Capital Development Planning and Oversight Committee met to review the budgetary requests of the National Guard and the Emergency Management Agency (EMA).

As far as the National Guard, the Committee received updates on multiple projects—including the expansion of the Command Readiness Center in Cranston—and found that all projects were proceeding as planned, according to Thomas Mullaney, the Chair of the Capital Development Planning and Oversight Committee.

Interestingly, the Committee also received an update from the EMA in relation to funding allocated in the Capital Plan for Hurricane Sandy. According to Mullaney, the EMA projects that the state share of these expenses will be roughly $1 million lower than previous estimates projected. “If this holds up, it will enable these funds to be reallocated to other capital needs,” Mullaney told GoLocal.

Capital Committee meetings, which are open to the public, are intended to review the multi-year capital budget requests for the various state agencies. 

The next Capital Committee meeting will take place on Tuesday, September 24, 2013 at Rhode Island College, and will focus on the higher education budget.

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