Poor leadership has contributed to economic malaise
BROAD BASE: Barry Hinckley, the Republican challenger for the U.S. Senate seat held by Sheldon Whitehouse, says that Rhode Island needs a tax structure that is competitive both regionally and nationally.
By Victor Paul Alvarez
PBN: What is the No. 1 issue affecting Rhode Island and what would you do specifically to address it?
HINCKLEY: It’s jobs and the economy. There’s really two ways for me to influence that outcome from this federal seat. One of the reasons I ran for this seat is I saw our congressional delegation, all four of them, they’re all Democrats and they have offered no leadership ideas or inspiration into the economic melee that we have here in Rhode Island. They have not used that position at all to influence the outcomes on Smith Hill and I plan to do that when elected.
I plan to provide some balance and contrast in our delegation. I will then constantly try to pressure and influence Smith Hill to turn Rhode Island from a last place team to a top five team. In the league of states there are 50 teams in the major leagues and we’re dead last.
There are three things we need to do right away. We need not only a regionally competitive tax and regulatory environment, but a nationally competitive one. We know what the standard bearers are. On a tax front they are Texas, New Hampshire and Florida. So not only do we have national competition but we have regional competition in New Hampshire. The state is a business and the taxpayers are customers. We pay for services.
Right now we pay a lot of money for arguably not-so-great services. You can’t be in business without competing and Rhode Island needs to realize that it has to compete with other states for tax dollars. [More than] 100,000 people have moved out of our state in the last 10 years. Those are customers that left because, generally, they didn’t find employment sufficient to bear the cost of living here. It’s an expensive place to live and there are not a lot of job options.
Second, on a business front, we need total regulatory overhaul.
I was at Quonset the other day where they got a contract to build a new barge that is 40 feet wider than the barges they’ve built in the past. It took them five years to get a new slipway approved to launch the thing. We’re in a competitive world and digging a slipway takes about three months. You don’t need five years to figure out whether you can put in a slipway or not.
No. 3, we’ve got a major education problem. … We’re not educating our kids for tomorrow’s jobs or even today’s jobs.
We need to question the government monopoly on primary and secondary education. I think parents should be armed with a voucher and they should decide where their education dollars should be spent. They know best for their children. What that will do is open up a very large market of primary and secondary schools to choose from, bringing more innovation and competition into our school system, which will lower cost and raise quality.
Limiting a parent to one choice, in many cases a failing choice, is not the way. That’s why we need vouchers.
PBN: What prompted you to run for public office after your years in business?
HINCKLEY: My children and a sense of duty to my country to pass a viable, solvent state and country to the next generation. I didn’t want to look at my kids when I’m 75 years old and say, “Sorry I didn’t do anything while my country and my state were circling the drain.” I’ve got the right skills at the right time. I’ve got a little bit of money that I can, hopefully, make a difference with and leave my state and my country in a much more solvent, viable condition for the next generation. I feel like it’s my duty as an American.
PBN: How has your professional background prepared you for this job?
HINCKLEY: Rhode Island needs jobs and to want jobs it’s wise to hire someone that’s created one in the first place. I’ve created hundreds of jobs. I think the lack of job-creation experience in these leadership roles is why we have a jobs crisis. We keep hiring people that have never created any jobs, never worked in the private sector, so it shouldn’t be a mystery that we don’t have any jobs and the private sector is struggling.
I understand how to run a business in fiscal balance. That’s very important.
PBN: You often hear people say, in regard to the government, that if they ran their business or household like that they’d be broke. Is it as simple as that?
HINCKLEY: In the short term, no. In the long term, yes. In the short term you can run a deficit in the government because you can print money. But the long-term effect of doing that is tragic and is going to come home to roost here in America if it doesn’t stop.
PBN: What can the next U.S. senator from Rhode Island do to grow jobs in this state?
HINCKLEY: No. 1, influence the behavior of Smith Hill from this very, very influential position and constantly be challenging Smith Hill to become more business friendly in the leadership there, which is something we don’t get from our delegates today.
No. 2, I can go down to Washington, D.C., and fight for a new federal tax code. The average Rhode Islander sends approximately 20 percent of their income down to Washington, between FICA and the income tax, every year. I think that money is better kept in Rhode Island. I’m fighting for a fair, simpler tax code that eases the burden on the middle class. Our tax code today is anything but fair or simple.
PBN: At one of your campaign stops you said, “businesswomen, businessmen and Rhode Island families create real jobs.” How does a senator facilitate that?
HINCKLEY: The government can’t create jobs. Government can only do two things when it comes to job creation. It can create obstacles or it can remove obstacles. That’s it. We live in an era when our government, both state and federal, is constantly putting more obstacles in the way of family and other business.
One of the major obstacles is our tax code. It’s 100 years old next year, is 4 million words long and it’s roundly hated. It’s arguably the least competitive in the world.
PBN: Your campaign has been focused on small business and lessening regulations. Is that more important in Rhode Island than in other states?
HINCKLEY: Yes. We have more small businesses, more mom and pops. We don’t have a lot of big businesses here. Rhode Island is the land of the family business. I’m really worried those next-generation businesses aren’t starting right now. Business starts are way down and that’s going to really come home to roost in a couple of years.
PBN: Is there something you can do to prevent job cuts in our local defense industry?
HINCKLEY: It’s called leadership. There are a few things we can do. The first is the leadership right now in the Senate has not passed a budget in over three years. If we go into these automatic spending cuts in January because of the failure of leadership of the U.S. Senate – the House is passed, the Senate has not – what happens is the cuts become arbitrary rather than strategic.
[This] leads to my second point. We need to start bringing home our troops around the world. Not only in the nations where we have war but military bases around the world. We need to reinvest that money into global marine assets, more subs and more Navy boats. We can quickly move around the globe to international hot spots rather than having expensive bases on land.
That’s good for Rhode Island as a Navy port, it’s good for our war college because we’ll need more naval officers trained. But it’s also good for our ship-building here.
PBN: Your motto seems to be “more jobs, less politics.” How would you fulfill that promise?
HINCKLEY: [Massachusetts Republican U.S. Sen.] Scott Brown is a good model for that. He’s a guy that votes with his party about 54 percent of the time. He votes on a bill based on his constituents, not on behalf of blind leadership. The man I’m running against votes with the leadership 98 percent of the time. That’s politics. We need senators that will vote with people from across the aisle and work towards a consensus. The “more jobs, less politics” speaks to the fact that people are dying for more jobs but the battle for more jobs is getting lost in partisan politics.
PBN: You say our No. 1 export is our children. What do you mean by that?
HINCKLEY: I lost my job in the marine industry during the luxury tax. I found a job but it was in Massachusetts, not here. I came back but I’m the exception, not the rule. One of the biggest complaints I hear on the campaign trail – after “I can’t find a job” – is “my kids are gone.” We spend a lot of money on educating our children and then chances are they leave. There are no next-generation jobs here. We’re exporting our future.
PBN: Do you support same-sex marriage?
HINCKLEY: I don’t think the government should be in the marriage business. That’s religion’s deal. If you want that same-sex marriage you should go to a church that does that, like the Episcopal Church in New England. I think the government should keep all couples the same under the law and give them a civil-union license and they can go to a church to consecrate that as they wish.
PBN: Do you support the death penalty?
PBN: Do you believe in term limits?
HINCKLEY: Yes. I’ve already term-limited myself to two terms. I think honesty comes with term limits.
PBN: Do you support Rhode Island’s new law requiring identification to vote?
PBN: Why is your campaign team called the Nerd Herd?
HINCKLEY: My 12-year-old daughter named them that. They’re all kind of techy and politically geeky. •