Congressional delegates see tax reform as essential to economy

Rhode Island’s congressional delegation addressed a slew of topics including climate change, flood insurance, tax reform and workforce development at a breakfast held Monday morning at the Crowne Plaza Providence-Warwick. More

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Congressional delegates see tax reform as essential to economy

PBN PHOTO/RHONDA MILLER
Rhode Island's congressional delegation addressed a slew of topics including climate change, flood insurance, tax reform and workforce development at a breakfast held Monday morning at the Crowne Plaza Providence-Warwick. From left to right: Accelereach Co-Founder Hamzah Ansari, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Sen. Jack Reed, Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce President Laurie White, Rep. David N. Cicilline and Rep. James R. Langevin.
Posted 3/31/14

WARWICK – On the final day of open enrollment for Affordable Care Act coverage, Rhode Island’s congressional delegation praised HealthSource RI as a national model, but told about 500 members of the business community that no major changes on critical issues such as tax reform are filtering down from the nation’s capital any time soon.

The slow-moving action from Congress, particularly on tax reform, was so little of a surprise that it brought laughter from the business audience at the Congressional Breakfast with Rhode Island’s U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Reps. James R. Langevin and David N. Cicilline at the Crowne Plaza Providence-Warwick on Monday.

The morning forum, sponsored by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, also reviewed issues including the impacts of climate change, flood insurance, education, student debt for college, workforce development, innovation, cybersecurity and immigration, but tax reform was a major focus of the conversation.

“Americans spend six billion hours a year complying with the federal tax code. Think of what we could build and innovate with six billion hours of American time every year,” said Whitehouse.

“The forces that have been brought to bear on the tax code have not been overly democratic,” said Whitehouse. “It’s been a place where there’s been a lot of mischief. Getting it cleaned up is very important.”

Whitehouse pointed to the importance of the production tax credit, particularly an incentive for wind energy, which is an important emerging industry for Rhode Island.

“The essence of reforming the tax code is being able to lower the rate, but at the same time closing loopholes that don’t provide incentives for American jobs,” said Reed. “There are a host of different provisions not accessible to the small businesses in Rhode Island.”

Alluding to recent reports of tech giant Apple having offshore accounts to minimize U.S. taxes, Reed said, “Most businesses in this room don’t have a subsidiary in the Caymen Islands.”

Rhode Island’s long-term sluggishness in training its workforce to meet the rapid expansion of demands in the technology sector, or knowledge economy, is also among the issues the congressional delegation is working to address from Washington, D.C.

“Federal funding for research got knocked down, but I think that will be coming back in a big way,” said Whitehouse.

While a reversal on the National Flood Insurance Program turned back federal subsidy cuts that would have caused skyrocketing rates for many homeowners in Rhode Island, Langevin said residents and businesses in the Ocean State must continue to address the issue.

“The National Flood Insurance Program has been stressed because of superstorms and the effect of climate change, but we will continue to see these storms,” said Langevin. “We have to get prepared for them.”

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