Mickey Stevens Sports Complex was ground zero Tuesday morning for the Reclaim Rhode Island campaign to increases taxes on those making more than $475,000 annually in order to generate an estimated $128 million that could be used to improve schools and repair roads.
It was no mistake that the volunteer group, many of whom worked on Bernie Sanders’s campaign for president, picked the lawn in front of the Thayer Arena to call on House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi to press for the measure. The sports complex is in the heart of Shekarchi’s district – District 23.
And it’s no mistake that Reclaim volunteers knocked on the doors of 1,000 residences in the district. Two of those who canvassed the district, Caroline Kory and Cassi Tharinger, said the preponderance of people they talked with favored the tax and identified schools as a priority community need. The team also left cards for comments that have been forwarded to the speaker.
Does the legislation have a chance of passage?
Kory believes so.
“We’ve heard there are the votes,” she said. She identified the speaker as the key, saying if Shekarcki favors the bill, it will be approved.
Shekarchi’s office was contacted soon after the Reclaim RI press conference.
“I have set up a meeting with representatives from Reclaim Rhode Island later this week and I look forward to hearing what they have to say. Changes to the tax structure would have to be included in the state budget, and that process has not been finalized yet,” Shekarchi responded in a statement.
Ward 3 Councilman Jeremy Rix was the only elected official attending the press conference.
Referring to tax cuts implemented during the administration of former Gov. Donald Carcieri that were designed to bring businesses into Rhode Island, Rix said, “contrary to what was told to us all those years ago, tax cuts that do not pay for themselves.”
Rix also spoke about Warwick schools and how the city has not built a new school in about 50 years.
“A little more money goes a long way in improving schools,” he said.
Pilgrim High graduate Miguel Martinez Youngs, who served as the event moderator and works at the Rhode Island Historical Society, said in a statement that Carcieri’s tax cut cost the state more than $1 billion in lost revenues.
“At the same time, property taxes have increased in order to account for the lost funds.
We need to tax the rich in order to make the system work for everyone,” he said. He said those making more than the $475,000 included “elite lawyers,” consultants and orthodontists.
Youngs read a statement from Rep. Karen Alzate that in part said, “We hear that the 1% will flee the state of this legislation passes, we know this is not factual! We know the 1% moves for work or family. Moving costs more than the actual tax hike. This hike will not negatively impact our small businesses in black and brown communities. It’ll only help them, as there will be more revenue.”
Jordan Goyette, who lives in Shekarchi’s district and works in nursing home, said the legislation would increase the tax rate on those making more than $475,000 from 5.9 to 8.99 percent that amounts to a 3 cent per dollar tax increase to the wealthiest.
“It’s good and morally just policy,” he said.