December 5, 2008

Rhode Island to Hard-Working Taxpayers: You're Not Wanted

Justin Katz

So I took a 14% reduction in my hourly pay rate this week. My other option was to quit and look for another job (without the benefit of a few months of unemployment insurance). Desperate times are here.

Meanwhile, the Sakonnet Times did run Richard Joslin's diatribe against the Tiverton taxpayers group with which I'm involved. The Providence Journal has also given Tom Sgouros's "Quit yer moanin'" rhetorical dreidle a bigger spin through the population, with Opinion Page Editor Bob Whitcomb offering Sgouros kudos for his "fact-filled and very thoughtful commentaries" (in general).

Then comes the broad list of possible new tax-the-people solutions for avoiding the necessity of paying for Rhode Island's transportation infrastructure out of the revenue pool that really ought to supply it. I'll tell you right now that just about any one of these options — except the higher gasoline tax, which won't affect me, except indirectly via higher costs passed on to customers — may be the final straw for my family.

It's possible they'll hit me with to-and-fro tolls just to get to work each day, and noises are that we're not talking the 35¢ that has been unchanged on New Jersey's Garden State Parkway for as long as I can remember. My wife could conceivably encounter four tolls, as she drops off the children at her mother's house three miles away and then heads to work in a part of Rhode Island more readily accessible via 195. Families in Portsmouth and Middletown could end up hitting six tolls on an evening trip to Providence. And then there are the other taxes and per-mile fees, no matter where one drives.

Of the half-dozen or so jobs that emails to me each day that somewhat match my criteria (although rarely sufficiently), not a single one has been in Rhode Island for quite some time. And if I were to find another job in the state, chances are slim that I wouldn't have to deduct heavy transportation costs from my earnings. The question, therefore, is this: Do the state's leaders really intend to further weigh the "get out of here" side of the decision scale for the slice of the population that has been streaming out of the state in the thousands every year?

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Although my own situation is not quite as dire as Justin's, mainly for the fact that I don't have a wife or children, these proposals have me paying attention, because I do a lot of driving, about 700 miles a week.

As part of my daily routine, I cross:

The Washington Bridge
The Jamestown Bridge
The Newport Bridge
The Sakonnet River Bridge

I'm already miffed that they're going to eliminate the discounted tokens on the Newport Bridge, or force me to pay cash. They want me to by a transponder to use E-Z Pass, even though it's already a very easy bridge to cross. It will just let them jack up the rates at will. To top it of, I cross between MA and RI via 195 at least once a day, and often several times.

In other words, I'm going to need to get a second job just to pay all the tolls!

My employer is actually based in MA, but I do most of my work in RI. This kind of makes me think it might be more worthwhile just to work in Massachusetts instead, and then take some backwoods road home, and avoid the highways completely (me and everyone else).

PS I've got a great idea! Let's hire some goons to stand at the state's borders to pull unsuspecting people out of their cars and beat them silly with baseball bats. It communicates the same "please don't come to Rhode Island" message, but at far less cost!

Posted by: Will at December 5, 2008 6:42 PM

You're young enough to become a fireman. Just change your name to Glancy, Fitzgerald, Ryan or Patterson and show up drunk for the interview.
You'll be hired for sure.

Posted by: Mike at December 5, 2008 6:57 PM

>>The question, therefore, is this: Do the state's leaders really intend to further weigh the "get out of here" side of the decision scale for the slice of the population that has been streaming out of the state in the thousands every year?

Such people are just collateral damage to the powers that be (Democrats). It's not that they are hostile to them or want to see them go, per se, but that the concerns and well-being of such people are subordinate to the ultimate priority of sustaining the union machine and welfare dependency class.

The elections have passed, and so they'll jack up taxes to keep feeding the machine.

It won't change until the tipping point has passed when so many have left that jacking up the taxes will no longer provide revenue sufficient to keep the charade going.

But by that point Rhode Island will resemble downtown Detroit.

That, unfortunately, is the path that this state has chosen, as reaffirmed by November's results.

Posted by: Tom W at December 5, 2008 7:04 PM

It's not gonna happen. Today, the Drudge Report. Monday night, Leno. If Bill Maher wasn't on hiatus, he'd be all over this, too.
The people of Westerly, East Providence, Pawtucket and Woonsocket will take up arms to prevent this from happening.

Posted by: rhody at December 5, 2008 9:08 PM

I just want to remind everyone that theses suggested transportation tax increases are suggestions of the Republican Governor Carcieri’s Blue Ribbon Panel and Department of Administration (former director of transportation) Director Jerome Williams (former Fleet Bank).

What I am trying to figure out is how the State of RI thinks it can drop state toll booths on a federal interstate highway and charge tolls for passing through the state.

Never the less, since I moved out of RI to live in the more civil and financially responsible state of HI (Republican Governor, Democratic General Assembly, heavily unionized and NEA teacher union), I am finding the current RI commentary on AR blog humorous.

Especially with Justin’s posts!

Justin Hawaii’s unemployment is only 4.3% and there are over 53,000 new jobs being created over the next 17 years plus there are 3,000 major construction jobs ongoing not including over 20,000 single family houses being constructed. Hawaii housing has not been impacted by subprime loans or credit failures. Bankruptcies are some of the lowest counts in the nation and all major Hawaii banks are posting major profits.

Just remember, everyone living in Hawaii is considered a minority, the state population is 96% ethnically diverse in blood line, there are no ethnic neighborhoods, mainlanders demanding islanders do things a certain way or telling islanders they do not know how to do things will be shown the beach and told start walking back to mainland. I’m a mainlander transplant that has continuously visited the island since 1960s. I learned and now accepted.

It will cost you about $10,000 or more to move from RI to HI (90 days or more before households arrive) not including finding a residence to live in or own, finding a job, purchasing a form of transportation and finding a school (public or private) for your children to attend.

Parents pay extra for children to ride the bus to school (no free bus), school uniforms, certain activities, lunches and parents are expected to provide community maintenance support to local schools. Public and private school is 12 months with holiday breaks plus summer and advance tutorial schools.

Medium single family house is $625,000 and condominiums are $400,000 (50% lower and 50% higher) depending on the area you are trying to purchase in. Rentals run about $1,800 a month and up. Jobs can be found starting $40,000 and up. Work 20 hours or more at a business and business must provide health insurance per HI law.

Bonus for moving, Hawaii is an international player and destination, all beaches and parks are free, nationally ranked public transportation system, no winter heating bills unless you live above 3,000 feet, 4% general excise tax, no property tax on boats, cars or motorcycles, low property tax (Honolulu = $3.29/$1,000/100%) and major city (Honolulu) ranked best city to raise a family in USA and 2nd cleanest city in world to live in. Almost universal health coverage state-wide, first in nation state-wide 24/7 doctor access via telephone or internet. HI has first in nation government sponsored “green initiatives” to reduce fossil fuel dependence by 70% state-wide by year 2030.

HI population 55 and older receive generous tax breaks to support their retirement living where as RI continues to tax the hell out of you.

For me, leaving RI and moving to HI; purchasing property and retiring in HI provided significant financial advantages over staying and living in RI.

Justin from your tone sounds like you are beginning to consider relocating out of RI!

Justin, the bow of the good ship Rhody is beginning to take on water and it’s time for you to start moving aft or putting your life boat out! I’ve already sailed away to my island of safety and am enjoying life with plenty of daily sun and beach!

Posted by: Ken at December 5, 2008 9:28 PM

I would love to give you words of encouragement to stay, but I think there is truly no hope for this state. If the current crisis isn't enough to get the democrats to actually lead to a solution, then nothing ever will. This ship is going down. If you can escape, then do it. Most of the US will recover but RI, MI, NY never will.

Posted by: thinkaboutit at December 5, 2008 10:36 PM

>>Justin, the bow of the good ship Rhody is beginning to take on water and it’s time for you to start moving aft or putting your life boat out!

The analogy seems to be getting universal around Anchor Rising.

Little wonder. With the the General Assembly at the helm, with its lilliputian intellects, rubber spines and microscopic ethics, disaster is sure to follow!

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at December 5, 2008 10:57 PM

Part of me thinks they are trying to scare us to death by proposing all these ridiculously asinine "ideas", under the premise that we'll somehow be relieved if we only end up getting half-screwed instead.

As for the Interstate highways, any placement of tollbooths on 95 or 195 would need Congressional approval, since they are not permitted on roads paid for with federal funds. The tolls that are often cited as examples of "successful" tolls, such as those in NY, NJ, MD, and DE, were all grandfathered into the Interstate highway system, since they all pre-existed it's creation.

Even if it happened, there are so many alternate routes and interstate connections, that barring the creation of some kind of Berlin Wall, there will be no way to force people to take the highways, instead of taking back roads, especially in the rural areas. Do you know how many different ways I can get to Seekonk from East Providence, without taking 195? Plenty.

If any of our two senators or two representatives tried to sneak that kind of legislation through at the federal level, they would be politically DONE. I just don't see it happening. More likely, they'll try to bring back the old bridge tolls. Why do you think they pushed so hard for EZ Pass on one bridge in Newport ... because, it isn't just going to be Newport. Sorry, Aquidneck Island.

PS Hey, I have an idea on how to raise $300 million a year. End RiteCare. If they think it's so important, they can move to Massachusetts and be a burden to them.

Posted by: Will at December 6, 2008 12:43 AM

What's that light I see out over the water !!?? Oh...someone light the Gaspee on fire again...

Posted by: tcc3 at December 6, 2008 9:01 AM

What's that light I see out over the water !!?? Oh...someone light the Gaspee on fire again...

Posted by: tcc3 at December 6, 2008 9:01 AM

What's that light I see out over the water !!?? Oh...someone light the Gaspee on fire again...

Posted by tcc3 at December 6, 2008 9:01 AM

I'm glad you see it. I sure don't. I see maggots continually re-elected, even in sane suburban districts like those of Amy Rice, Chuck Levesque, Donna Walsh, Bea Lanzi, Frank Fairy, etc.
Of course I remember 1983 so in one election we can hope the Governor Laffey gets a GA that consists of 1/3 Republican/independents/sane Democrats who will join hands and say NO to the budget of the unions, cronies and welfare leeches.

Posted by: Mike at December 6, 2008 9:17 AM

I actually agree with the general thrust of Sgorous's piece. Kind of like Froma Harrop, he's got enough on the ball to be right more often than a broken clock.

Of course confirmation bias prevents him from extending his analysis in the self evident direction: "unions and state dependants - or more precisely their paid advocates -- stop your whining".

The same form of analysis holds equally: should teachers threaten to leave the state, or more likely leave the classroom for the picket lines if their salaries are reduced to the national average? or, god forbid just lowered to the 6% above the nation that RIers average in wages rather the 12% above the national average its teachers enjoy while teaching 18% fewer students per teacher and accounting precisely for the 30% premium in elementary and secondary education costs in RI (two can play at the facts and figures game);

and should welfare recipients move to another state if we cut their checks or god forbid enforce provisions prohibiting public assistance to legal immigrants now being enjoyed in a way highly suggestive of cultural transmission by an astonishing 32% of naturalized immigrants from the Dominican Republic (with a margin of error of 8%) and 34% of non-naturalized immigrants from the Domincan Republic (with a margin of error of 7%), and fire the translators that Carcieri should have deep sixed a year ago in a challenge to the absurd consent agreement signed by a particularly lame appointee in the Almond administration on this question.

In simple terms and other words: "this state gives you more than others, often in violation of its own laws and federal laws, so shut up if you're going to get your wings trimmed. And be prepared to slaughter some of your sacred cows if you want to keep working in the public sector or living off the public in RI.

The concept of cheap office space and good networking for geeks is not mutually exclusive with the honest argument over what represents the right level of government. And geeks aren't the only business you're looking for.

And, just to show that reactionaries can have as much fun blue skying as progressives, I invited Tom to our latest confab at the Red Fez in Providence on Tuesday the 9th:

a book club focusing on
self-help for the economy

Bailout and Beer
6-8 Tues, Dec. 9th
Red Fez
49 Peck St.
info 401-439-7877
for reading list e-mail
bbishop at

Indeed, I've got a different anecdote for good ole Tom (and I mean that in both the congenial and cynical sense). Providence was a picture of musical diversity and an incubator for live performers when I grew up there. Indeed public choice non-profit players like AS220 grew out of legitimate private energies focused on Providence by artists of various ilk.

I grew up thinking that Providence would be the next Memphis or Austin. But the bureaucrats in Providence and their incessant planning and licensing have killed that dream.

It's gotten so bad that a coffee house with an AA theme in the commercial stretch just north of Hope and Rochambeau got threatened by the city for having a guy playing a guitar in the corner without amplification.

And, at the same time the city fathers were busy collecting up little bits of commercial and industrial zoning from all over the city and extinguishing it. The corner bars and groceries that anchored neighborhoods will never come back because the city has decreed it -- well maybe if they grease the right palms.

so you do get a little of this built in to these urbane Streuver Brothers developments -- you know the folks who distrust the city fathers in whom Tom asks us to place our trust so much that they have taken control of the expenditure of increases in property taxes for their tony digs.

I'm sure folks here, probably even Justin, would look kindly on RI if property taxes were capped at levels from a few years ago and any increases would only go to projects planned and approved by the person paying the increase, not by the corporate-statists down at the planning department. Meanwhile where I live there are to many recalitrants like me who won't go along, so they are trying to regionalize our planning. At least the price of razor wire is down a little bit with other commodities.

And what happened to the vision of Providence as Southern New England's Austin, we got beat out by Groton, CT which on any given evening has more small venues presenting music that Providence.

Yeah you still have this shadow of Lupo's, the couple joints in the jewelry district and American Plumb Loco and the young kids can find a few hip hop and DJ barns to get herded into in Providence, but the sense of a flourishing diverse musical culture has gone south -- by about 40 miles.

Of course the transportion thing is a cluster-x@%#. It is plausible that targeted tolls electronically collected (give big discount for ez-pass) might be appropriate for expensive transportation infrastructure that serves a limited market.

But this big brother odometer thing is a GD joke. They tell everybody to use less gas and everybody runs out and buys a small car and now they want to penalize them by having big brother read their odometers [well big brother's subcontractors].

A higher gas tax as a user fee is perhaps the most meritorious undertaking, but where is the panel's recommendation that we try to get some non-union shops from right to work states in here to push down the cost. Last I checked, RI spends 2.5 to 3 times per mile the national average on state roads.

What kind of in-the-bag numbskulls could have been on this commission that they didn't consider costs, only paying them. This, by the way, indicates the dark side of government contracting. Maybe better than FTE's but not any kind of private market analog. The private contractors and their expenditures grow to fill whatever the beast can collect in taxes and to push the limits.

That there was no [reported] consideration of getting the same work done for lower costs represents the triumph of public choice economics where unions and locally influential road contractors have captured the process.

And, don't get me started on RIPTA. Where there is direct congestion mitigation effect there are merits to offsetting mass-transit expenses from the gas tax funding, but it is disingenuous in the extreme, even if it represents a relative drop in the bucket, for the gas tax to cover schleping folks around without charging what it costs as the commission has proposed as a sop to progressives.

RIPTA tickets should cost what it costs to deliver the service. Then you can argue about whether poor folks headed to the welfare office need to get a free card, but the subsidy is transparent.


Posted by: Brian at December 6, 2008 10:15 AM
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