2012-02-09 / Editorial

From the State House

BY DEB RUGGIERO BY DEB RUGGIERO Greetings friends and neighbors. It was interesting to sit on the House floor and hear Governor Chafee invoke Charles Dickens in his state of the state address. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” said the governor, referencing a line from Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.”

The best of times in that we should always be grateful, but since 2008, our state (and the nation) has been grappling with the worst of times in nearly 80 years. For some of us it’s the first time in our lifetime that we’ve seen friends and families lose their jobs and their homes.

The way to jumpstart this anemic economy is with jobs. Government doesn’t create jobs, it creates an environment for business to creates jobs.

I’ve heard from a number of small environmental businesses asking why the state eliminated the renewable energy tax credit for homeowners. I’ve introduced legislation again this year to reinstate the renewable energy tax credit for homeowners.

When homeowners decide to invest in solar hot water, photovoltaic and geothermal projects, they creates jobs for small business. That means payroll taxes, business taxes and sales taxes to the state of Rhode Island.

Over the past five years since the renewable energy tax credit was in place, it cost the state only an average of $150,000 a year but realized an average of $1.1 million spent on some 50 projects. As John Kennedy once said, “The best social program is a good job.”

Government also has a duty to take care of the elderly and the developmentally disabled. That’s the moral test of a community, to care for those less fortunate.

That’s why I’m working to restore some of the funding for the developmentally disabled. Last year, $24 million was cut – I voted against it. As a result, several provider agencies have cut people costing more jobs and a loss of services to those with developmental disabilities.

The governor called for 2012 to be “the year of the cities and towns,” offering legislation to provide more money for schools and to help struggling cities and towns confront their unfunded pension liabilities. How? The governor’s budget suggestsa2percenttaxonmeals and beverages to generate $39 million for cities and towns so they don’t have to raise property taxes.

I, like you, believe property taxes are the most regressive and hurt elderly on a fixed income and struggling families.

Yes, it’s only “20 cents on a $10 pizza,” but it’s a 20 percent increase that will hurt the restaurant and hospitality industry in our state that can ill afford it.

Keep in mind that the governor’s budget will be retooled and reworked by both the House and Senate finance committees. The state saw a $40 million surplus at the November Estimating Revenue Conference. Here’s hoping May will be as prolific. That means many of these tax increases will never see the light of day.

A promising highlight of the governor’s budget is to place the Sakonnet Bridge and Jamestown Bridge under the purview of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority. RITBA has done an outstanding job of maintaining the Newport and Mount Hope bridges.

There cannot be another toll increase on the Newport Bridge. Residents of Jamestown, Middletown and Newport have more than paid for the maintenance of these bridges since 1999.

Here’s why tolling the Sakkonet Bridge makes sense. The Sakkonet Bridge is a conduit for people to earn money in Rhode Island and take it to Massachusetts.

The state Department of Transportation tells me that approximately 40 percent of the traffic over the Sakonnet Bridge is from out of state – 15 million people travel the Sakonnet each year compared to six million over the Mount Hope, and 10 million over the Newport Bridge. This is about fairness and equity. If people choose to leave our state to shop and work in Massachusetts, then a toll makes sense.

It was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who said, “Taxes should not be excessive or penal, but you need revenues to pay for safe bridges and roads.”

Please call me at 423-0444 or email me at rep-ruggiero@rilin. state.ri.us. I value your input.

Rep. Deb Ruggiero serves District 74 (Jamestown and Middletown) in the state House of Representatives.

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