More specifics needed in sales tax debate

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In this week’s edition of The Post, State Representative Jan Malik (D-Dist. 67, Barrington/Warren), writes about his support for the complete elimination of sales tax in Rhode Island. Rep. Malik is front-and-center in the discussion about the proposal, sitting on the House Finance Committee, which is chaired by East Providence Rep. Helio Melo (D-Dist. 64).

As of yet, Rep. Melo, one of the most powerful voices on money matters in the state, has yet to offer a public stance on the topic, understandable considering his position in state government and in helping direct its economic policy.

Rep. Malik, like many other proponents of the sales tax elimination, points to the purported windfall getting rid of the levy would have on Rhode Island’s economy. The arguments for claim it would be a boon to existing businesses while creating an improved climate for companies looking to move, expand or create new ones in the state.

To date, however, Rep. Malik nor any other vocal backers of the plan, most notably the R.I. Center for Freedom and Prosperity, have offered up any specifics on how to make up for the lost revenue, pegged at almost $1 billion by most observers. It should be noted, the R.I. Center for Freedom and Prosperity balks at that figure, claiming it would be significantly less and, again, made up for by increases in sales totals as well as an increase in the number of companies doing business in the state.

Regardless of what side of the debate one sits, there’s no denying the elimination of the sales tax comes with some loss of revenue. The logical question that follows is, if revenue is lost, what cuts should be made? Reducing spending, which is the core belief of most Conservative/Libertarian-leaning politics, must be addressed, though those for eliminating the sales tax have yet to provide them.
Much like a lot of political policy and rhetoric, this proposal sounds good in theory, but in practice it falls flat. Until accurate and reasonable specifics are set forth about the impact eliminating or even reducing the state sales tax are introduced and from where spending would be correspondingly reduced, there should be little to no support for this measure.
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