The Scoop - Ken Block Offers Alternatives to Sales Tax Elimination

Monday, September 16, 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

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Block Weighs in on Sales Tax Debate

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.

First up is Moderate Party candidate Ken Block, who had this to say about Rhode Island’s sales tax debate:

“Rhode Island should consider ways to lower certain state sales taxes. However, there are other more urgent tax issues to address in our state. Specifically, we need to fix our unemployment insurance costs, which are ranked 50th in the country. We need to reform the temporary disability insurance program, which will put money into the pockets of working Rhode Islanders. These types of factors make Rhode Island an uncompetitive place to do business.”

Stay tuned to see what the other candidates had to say.

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Former AG Lynch Backs Smiley for Mayor

Former Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch announced today that he is endorsing fundraising specialist and lobbyist Brett Smiley for mayor of Providence. Lynch, who served as Attorney General from 2003 through 2011, issue the following statement:

“As someone who has worked with both Mayor Cicilline and Mayor Taveras, while growing a successful business, I am confident that Brett can hit the ground running and bring the new energy needed to lead Providence to a bright future. Brett will build on the solid foundation established by Mayor Taveras to ensure that Providence meets its tremendous potential through a concentrated focus on economic growth. You can learn more about Brett by visiting his website,

“As Chair of the Providence Water Supply Board, Brett has demonstrated the kind of innovative, future-oriented thinking we need in the next Mayor. One of his many accomplishments as Chair includes devising an innovative proposal to regionalize the governance of our state water supply, based on the economies of scale required to upgrade essential infrastructure and safeguard our drinking water for the long term.

“I have worked closely with Brett and know that he has the business and financial acumen that will serve the City well. Just as importantly, he possesses the management and team-building skills that are so critical to success in a chief executive office.

Lynch, who currently heads a legal and lobbying firm in Providence, will be hosting a fundraising event for Smiley on Thursday, September 19 at office in Providence. Click here for event details.

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Rep. Phillips Previews Tomorrow’s Shared Municipal Services Commission Meeting

The Joint Commission on Shared Municipal Services will meet Tuesday for an update on its public safety dispatch and tax collection surveys and a presentation on regional consolidation in New England.

In order to gauge what the hearing will cover, GoLocal reached out to the commissions Co-chairman Rep. Robert D. Phillips (D-Dist. 51, Woonsocket, Cumberland).

“The goal of the commission is to make both state and local government more efficient and cost effective,” Phillips told GoLocal. “We have started with two aspects of municipal government: tax assessments/tax collections being one, and police and fire dispatch services being the other. We sent out surveys to municipalities on these topics and we are currently gathering the data.

“The recommendations by the commission will be data-driven. We do not intend to shoot from the hip. But in a state as small as Rhode Island, it makes perfect sense to explore the possibilities of sharing services in a number of areas. We intend to explore other topics as well, such as sharing trash collection.”

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RI Congressional Delegation Announces $300K Housing Grant

Earlier today, the Rhode Island Congressional delegation announced a $300,000 federal grant for Sojourner House, a local advocacy and resource center for victims of domestic abuse. The grant was awarded by the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women and will help fund Sojourner House’s transitional housing program, which provides aid to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking who are homeless or in need of housing assistance. The program also helps participants secure permanent housing.

“Sojourner House provides critical services to survivors and victims of domestic violence on a daily basis,” said U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a member of the Appropriations subcommittee, which oversees federal funding for the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women programs. “I commend the dedicated staff and volunteers at Sojourner House for helping women and families throughout Rhode Island, and I am pleased they are receiving this federal funding.”

“Victims of domestic abuse need somewhere to turn,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who is a strong supporter of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and whose teen dating violence prevention act became law in March as part of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. “Sojourner House’s transitional housing program provides victims with a safe place to stay and helps them reclaim their lives from abuse. I congratulate Sojourner House on this award, which will help continue these essential services.”

“Leaving an abusive situation takes incredible courage, and I am so glad that Rhode Islanders faced with that decision have a safe place to land,” said U.S. Congressman Jim Langevin. “Having a safety net will encourage victims to get out of violent, dangerous relationships, and these funds for transitional housing will get them back on their feet.”

“Sojourner House is one of Rhode Island’s strongest advocates for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking,” said U.S. Congressman David Cicilline, who served as an original co-sponsor for the strengthened, bipartisan reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that was signed into law earlier this year. “I am delighted to join in announcing this significant federal grant and applaud Sojourner House for their invaluable work to assist survivors.”

“Sojourner House is honored to receive another transitional housing grant from the Department of Justice--Office on Violence Against Women. This grant will allow us to serve individuals and families who have been impacted by domestic violence and need housing and supportive services. We firmly believe that it is impossible for survivors to rebuild their lives free from abuse without safe and secure housing,” said Vanessa Volz, Executive Director of Sojourner House.

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Taveras Wants Residents to Assist with Providence’s Rezoning Process

This afternoon, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras turned to social media to get Rhode Islanders engaged in the city’s rezoning process.

“We are overhauling Providence's zoning ordinance. Be a part of the process,” said Taveras via Facebook.

As one of the key initiatives in Taveras’ economic development action plan, Putting Providence Back to Work, the mayor is currently working to update and improve Providence’s Zooning Ordinance.

The new zoning ordinance will be the result of a collaborative effort between city departments, residents, business owners, developers, institutions, and other stakeholders. I am confident that the new ordinance will provide a clear framework for guiding the growth and development of Providence, which will enhance and strengthen our City into the future.

As part of the initiative, Mayor Taveras is encouraging residents to visit Once there, residents can leave feedback, get information about public zoning meetings, and read public zoning reports, which will be posted as they become available.

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Elorza Gives Fundraising Update

Providence mayoral candidate Jorge Elorza has just reached the half way mark in his “30K in 30 Days” fundraising push and the former Roger Williams University professor has given GoLocal an update on his progress.

“The response and the support has been strong and I am on track to reach my goal of $30,000 in 30 days,” Elorza told GoLocal.

Elorza’s opponents—Democrat Michael Solomon and Republican Daniel Harrop—have banked $491,848.51 and $102,427.88 respectively. More than half of Solomon's total comes from a $250,000 loan he made to himself, while nearly all of Harrop's total comes from a personal loan for $100,000.

Financial summaries are not yet available for Elorza’s other opponent Brett Smiley, who announced his candidacy earlier this month.

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