Why a Prosperity Agenda for Rhode Island is needed

Rhode Island’s 10+% unemployment rate became the 2nd highest in the nation in February of 2012 and is completely out of whack with the rest of New England. Public policy in Ocean State has obviously FAILED and is not serving its citizens … however, there is virtually no leadership in our state that offers a big picture plan to restore prosperity. Our Center for Freedom offers its vision.

Click here to view our “Unleashing Capitalism” initiative

Our RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity believes that the Ocean State can be the most dramatic turnaround state in our country! Our positive vision for Rhode Island is meant to restore pride and hope for our citizens.

The status-quo economic and educational systems in Rhode Island have failed. The wreckage from this flawed philosophy of government is now clearly evident almost everywhere: in our state, in our municipalities, at the national level, and throughout the European Union.

Rhode Island is not competitive with other states and as a result, we continue to bleed human and capital resources. Our tax and regulatory polices have resulted in dismal economic performance, as exemplified in our recently published Report Card on RI Competitiveness.

Balancing the state budget should not be the primary policy goal; doing so ignores Rhode Island’s weak competitive standing and is a tacit admission that the current spending polices are worth preserving. The wreckage from these failed policies is now painfully obvious to all Rhode Islanders.

That taxpayers have come to believe that ever-expanding taxation, spending is a naturally occuring phenomenon and that there are no other paths … is a mindset that our Center seeks to change by presenting an alternative approach. Government expansion is not a law of nature, but rather a function of politics and public tolerance.

A dramatic reversal of our prevalent “spending” culture must take hold- both at the legislative and public level. The primary goal of our public policy should be to restore and maintain our state’s competitiveness. In order to regain prosperity for our citizens, we must implement public policy reform that unleashes our great potential that serves to attract and free-up the valuable resources necessary to reinvigorate our economy.

Our state budget, and consequently our onerous state tax burden and regulatory climate, must be reformed if we are to improve our competitive standing relative to other states. As our economy grows and produces more good jobs, our tax base will be expanded and there will be more revenue available for education and to provide for the most needy of our fellow citizens.

This can only be achieved by reducing both spending and taxes.

To reach this goal, a bold new vision that entails deep and broad market-based policy reform is required. Deep in the sense that a dramatically new thinking is required in a handful of high impact policy areas. Broad in the sense that reforms across a wide-spectrum of other lower-impact policy areas are also required, as evidenced by the staggering number of failing grades Rhode Island received on our Center’s recently released Report Card on RI Competitiveness.

In creating a public policy vision for Rhode Island, designed to unleash the capacity that has been bridled by overly burdensome public policy, our RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is developing a Prosperity Agenda that includes both deep and broad policy recommendations. This agenda should be viewed only as an initial set of steps, from many possible steps, that will start to turn our economy around and is not meant to reprensent a comprehensive solution. Over the years, our Center will continually modify and add to this agenda.

Our high tax burden, spending addiction, poor schools, and restrictive regulatory structure are driving families, wealth and economic opportunity out of our state. Too many RI citizens are facing severe hardship, yet those who defend the status quo have successfully stopped critical reforms dead in their tracks … reform items that are necessary to enhance our well-being and to change lives for the better.

The path to increased prosperity for Rhode Island is the same path America embarked upon over 235 years ago … freedom. Freedom is indispensable to our well-being and prosperity.

  • Freedom to pursue a path to happiness of our own choosing, relying on our own perseverance and self-reliance, and free of a heavy-handed government
  • Freedom to keep our own property … including our hard-earned wages and personal wealth
  • Freedom to choose the best schools for our children

Our RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has a bold, new vision to restore greatness to the Ocean State. In April, our Center for Freedom will release a detailed “Prosperity Agenda” for Rhode Island: a game-changing agenda, with new solutions, that will return competitiveness to our economic and educational institutions.

Each policy recommendation will eventually be backed by fact-based research that will demonstrate how public policy, based on the principles of the free-enterprise system, is the only way to enhance the lives of our citizens. Our Center’s policy recommendations, if adopted, will remove many of the shackles that have restricted individual and economic achievement … and will serve to unleash the great potential in each of us.

In order to restore growth to our economy and excellence to our educational system, free-market solutions are the answer. When individuals, businesses, teachers, and families have choices, and can freely compete on a level playing field in their respective areas, our economy and our schools will improve.

In short, freedom from overly burdensome government regulations and taxation is indeed indispensable to our well-being and prosperity!

PUBLIC POLICY PLAN

When considering a strategy to restore competetiveness to the Ocean State, there are three primary goals of the public policy recommendations in our upcoming Prosperity Agenda:

1. Tax reforms that encourage growth

2. Spending reforms to decrease dependence on government

3. Regulatory reforms to ensure goals are achieved without undue burdens on human and economic development

In addition, there are multiple policy areas from which these reforms will be derived:

Tax & Budget: the primary tool to stimulate economic revitalization. Rhode Island needs lower spending and lower taxes to increase the Ocean State’s overall competetiveness and to allow our economy to grow and to produce the good jobs required for our citizens to prosper as well as to expand our tax base.

Education: a well educated student population will result in enhanced individual opportunities and will also be attractive to businesses that require a skilled workforce. With a higher employed population, there will be less social services stress on our state budget. More choice, transparency, and competition are needed to spur greater achievement and to maximize the potential of our children.

Health Care: affordable health insurance and accessible health care must be available for our citizens. Implementing market-based, consumer-driven vehicles that expand choice and reduce costs is the only way we can practically care for more people at an affordable cost. Using health insurance exchanges as a vehicle to enlist individuals in other government programs compounds the problem.

Energy: while our state is largely at the mercy of national and international policies when it comes to the cost of energy, there is no reason, during these difficult economic times, that we should increase energy costs by pursuing dubious political objectives. Reforming current regulations that force us to purchase more expensive energy will result in more disposable income for households and for businesses.

Labor: the recent and ongoing pension reform debates clearly demonstrate how undue special interest influence and bargaining monopolies can harm our economic and governmental institututions, and also may inhibit critical reform. Reforms must be put in place that contain the scope of union influence in municipal contracts and that allow workers to choose whether or not being a dues-paying member is in their personal best interest.

Legal: The risk of legitimate litigation as a penalty for negligence is a critical component of a free-market economy. However, when the high risk of litigation from frivolous law suits drives up the cost of insurance or the cost of providing employment or services for businesses, legislative reform is necessary to remove this barrier to operating a business in our state and to enhance our overall business climate.

Regulatory Reform: Overregulation, Unnecessary Programs, and Subsidies to businesses and consumers cost Rhode Islanders money and time each year while reducing economic growth. Reform of some of these programs will reduce taxes, cut prices, and increase economic growth.

Look for specific policy recommendations, as part of our Prosperity Agenda in mid-late April of 2012.