House Speaker Gordon Fox is open to the idea that the time has come for tax equity in Rhode Island. But he still needs to be convinced it’s the economic tack for the state.
“Major changes to the state’s income tax code were enacted only a few years ago, and he needs to be convinced that there is a compelling reason to alter that reform effort which makes Rhode Island much more competitive with our neighboring states,” said Fox’s spokesman Larry Berman in an email to me yesterday.
While it’s certainly not a ringing endorsement of legislation that would raise income tax rates slightly on those who make about a quarter of a million dollars a year, it’s a stark contrast to what Fox, who sponsored the most recent bill that lowered taxes to the rich, has said in the past.
Fox still sees “tax stability and predictability” as being attractive to business owners, said Berman, but his statement comes as the legislature grapples with how to plug a $51 million deficit after years of cuts to services to balance the state’s budget and Rep. Maria Cimini, a champion of the tax equity movement, sent a letter to House colleagues last week imploring them to support her bill that would raise about $66 million and prevent the state from having to cut more services.
She said years of austerity has left the state with little left to cut – as well as dangerously dilapidated roads and bridges and a workforce that is meeting the demands of a 21st century economy.
When I spoke to Cimini yesterday, she made a point of saying that the proposed legislation doesn’t seek to reverse the 2010 tax code changes, but rather than many tax breaks the legislature has given the affluent in recent years.
Much evidence has been presented over the past three legislative sessions that shows tax cuts to the wealthy didn’t stimulate the economy. While the evidence doesn’t prove the tax cuts caused the recession, it does show that the tax cuts didn’t stimulate job creation, as politicians and conservative pundits said they would.