If you’re still looking for the evidence that likely 2014 gubernatorial candidate Gina Raimondo is a progressive Democrat, as she told many a union member during her push for pension reform last year, you won’t find it in local tax policy. Instead of advocating for more revenue, Treasurer Raimondo decided to again side with business interests and the right in calling tax equity measures the enemy of economic growth.
“Given Rhode Island’s current economic condition – with high unemployment and stagnant population growth – I have reservations about adopting policies that could put us at a competitive disadvantage when compared to other states,” she said in a prepared statement. “The best way to increase tax revenue is to grow our state’s overall economy so every Rhode Islander benefits from our success.”
Earlier this month, when I first asked Raimondo about the Miller-Cimini income tax bills, that would repeal the flat income tax and raise back the rates on Rhode Island’s richest residents to the where they were lowered from starting in 2007, she said she hadn’t heard of the effort – even though it had been covered by this news outlet, as well as the Providence Journal, WPRI and RI Public Radio, among others.
In her statement that her deputy chief of staff Joy Fox gave me more recently, Raimondo said: “Representative Cimini and Senator Miller should be commended for reminding all Rhode Islanders about the increasing levels of income inequality across our state, and by extension our country. I look forward to working with Representative Cimini and Senator Miller to actively pursue economic development policies and opportunities that improve our state for everyone.”
When asked about Raimondo’s position on the tax equity bills, George Nee, president of the local AFL-CIO, who has been helping to lead the charge for the bills passage, said, “I don’t know if I’m surprised but I’m certainly disappointed. I still don’t see the connection between jobs and taxes.”
Nee, and other supporters of the tax equity bills, have pointed to the fact that unemployment in Rhode Island has gone up as income tax rates for the affluent have gone down. The AFL-CIO also released poll results last week done by Flemming and Associates that indicates 68 percent of Rhode Islanders support the bills, which would raise the income tax rate on those who make more than $250,000 but subsequently lower it when the unemployment rate drops.
“We will continue to provide her with information to try to change her mind,” Nee said. “I was hoping she would see this as a necessary change in policy on both a state and federal level.”