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Monday, January 31, 2011

Thank you, Tea Party! Thank you, Republicans!

I am so grateful to the RI Tea Party and the RI Republicans in the General Assembly. Rather than let us wallow in our misery over high unemployment, deficits or miserable storms, they’ve brought us some wonderful diversions.

First, thank you to Rep. Doreen Costa (R-No. Kingstown). Newly sworn in after riding her steaming tea pot to victory, Ms. Costa immediately went to work tackling one of the most troubling issues facing the state – Christmas.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Enormous Taxes!

I was reading some Charlestown citizen comments recently and took pause when a person started ranting and raving about the “enormous taxes” in Charlestown. Certainly there is a stylishness for expressing the attitude that government is taking too much money, but I prefer to have that based on some analysis rather than torches and pitchforks emotion.

I must confess that I moved here only three years ago (but my wife was born in South County Hospital so I’m not all bad!) and I developed a positive feeling about our level of taxes here. People have asked us about our reaction to taxes here, thinking we would make the standard, dare I say politically correct, complaint. Our usual reply is that we were surprised about the property taxes, and then disappoint the listener by saying that we now have a house with three times the valuation of our previous one and we pay just about the same property taxes.

That is a bit of a simplification so I’ll be more specific.

In Charlestown we have two property taxing entities, the town and the fire district. We live in the area served by the Charlestown Fire District (full disclosure – I volunteer for the fire district) and the combined tax rate is about $8 per $1,000 valuation.

Where I lived previously we had 4 property taxation districts: town (including fire), county, school (reported separately from town), and community college district (actually quite good and a pride of the community for post-secondary job training). Our total property tax load was $23.50 per $1,000 valuation. Did you read that correctly? The school tax portion alone was $16.50 per $1,000 valuation.

Ok. So my previous town was spending twice as much on schools (based on valuation) as our total tax bill in Charlestown. Which is spending the right amount? How are you sure of that?

The appropriate level of taxation is not a simple thing, appropriate for knee-jerk opinions. When I hear people saying that "taxes should be lower in Charlestown" I have yet to be impressed with the logic that I hear for why. But I'll be glad to discuss it in the comments.

And I will be developing this further in future postings.

Author: Tom Ferrio

Friday, January 28, 2011

Hit the road and don’t ya come back no more

For the past two weeks, the major buzz in RI politics has been a controversial report by the Ocean State Policy Research Institute (OSPRI) that claims that rich people are leaving RI in droves, forced out by taxes, especially RI’s estate tax.

Since the release of that report, others more qualified than I am, have pointed out the numerous flaws in the report, the worst being dishonest use of statistics to back up a pre-conceived anti-tax conclusion. (For some of the best responses Click here and here and here and here). Even The Wall Street Journal thinks OSPRI is wrong.

Contrary to OSPRI’s claim that RI had a net loss of 107,000 people, 2010 Census data shows RI’s population increasing by half a percent from 2000 to 2009. RI Division of Taxation numbers show the number of high income taxpayers also increased.

OSPRI claims one proof of its anti-tax thesis is that people who left RI often moved to “red” states like Florida, Texas and Arizona where income, estate and sales taxes are lower.

Although Florida, Arizona and the like are popular retirement spots – ask Charlestown Citizens Alliance President Kallie Jurgens – the state saw other middle-income people migrate into Rhode Island from “blue” states such as Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Illinois. In fact, that describes about half of the membership of the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee!