On Friday we held our second car tax rally on the steps of Pawtucket City Hall. We chose City Hall to highlight the fact that Pawtucket pays one of the highest vehicle excise taxes in the state at 5.3 percent. Pawtucket residents have been paying this very high tax for many years without relief. We chose City Hall because the car tax takes millions of dollars yearly away from our struggling families and it wreaks havoc on Pawtucket’s small businesses and local economy, yet the local Pawtucket government, just like the state, and especially the Mayor Donald Grebien’s office, have done little to nothing to address this issue over the past several years. In fact, they don’t even seem to realize that the car tax is an issue for Pawtucket’s working families.
Low-income urban cities and in particular Pawtucket and Providence have been suffering under an unfair state economic policy for several years. Higher income cities and towns like Jamestown, which pays a car tax rate of 1.4 percent, have been paying this very low rate for years while poorer cities like Pawtucket, which pays 5.3 percent, have been paying an outrageously high rate. Both the state and the city have failed to recognize how damaging and unfair this huge disparity is.
The purpose of our car tax rallies is to encourage our state and local leaders to follow through on campaign promises to address this destructive economic policy. At the state level, we are encouraged by the recent announcement of the “Fair Shot Agenda” put forth in the Rhode Island House of Representatives by the Progressive Caucus. The Fair Shot Agenda includes a plan to reform the car tax by asking wealthy Rhode Islanders to pay their fair share.
We are pleased to see the Progressive Caucus taking the lead on this issue and in this fashion because the more conservative Speaker of the House, Nicholas Mattiello, is developing his own plan which may not include any sense of fairness and may actually call for cuts to programs that affect the same groups that we are seeking relief for.
At the local level, we are also very encouraged by the whispers of movement in the Pawtucket City Council toward a proposal to significantly increase the exemption for the car tax. I know for a fact that there are city councilors that believe tax relief on vehicles is something that needs to be done for the residents of Pawtucket.
In sum, the car tax rallies, my own efforts as a resident of Pawtucket, and the efforts of many others seem to be bearing fruit and driving the “wealthy must pay their fair share” messaging that so many in Pawtucket relate to. I can say with great confidence that the organizers and participants of Friday’s rally are very encouraged by developments at the state and local level to address this regressive and unfair tax on the residents of Pawtucket and Rhode Island’s poorest communities.