(Updated, April 3, 3:20 p.m.)
PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance released a new report Wednesday identifying nearly $225 million in non-essential government spending in Rhode Island that could be used instead to fund tax cuts and the repeal of the Sakonnet River Bridge tolls.
The “Spotlight on Spending” report, to be presented at a 3 p.m. press conference in the Statehouse Rotunda, attacks the “bloated and unwieldy” budget proposed by Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee for fiscal year 2015. The budget Chafee unveiled in January calls for $8.5 billion in state spending and an estimated $16.2 million in new tax revenue.
“Good government is about setting spending priorities [and] preserving opportunities in the state for residents who wish to succeed,” the Center for Freedom & Prosperity report stated. “Tax relief and job creation for Rhode Island families and reducing the crushing regulatory burden on the state’s business sector must be weighed against non-essential, sometimes wasteful, spending for projects that produce little benefit to the average resident.”
The largest spending cut recommended in the report would roll back Chafee’s proposed $50 million expansion of the historic tax credit program. Last year, the R.I. Division of Taxation offered $34.5 million in transferable credits, but had to hold a lottery to determine which projects would receive the credits since there were applications for $54.5 million in credits.
The Spotlight on Spending report identified another $34.9 million in “government handouts” to be trimmed from the budget, including $2.5 million to build a sailing center at Fort Adams State Park, $10 million to fund tuition freezes at the state’s public colleges and university, $12.3 million to pay down the debt incurred by Curt Schilling’s collapsed video game company 38 Studios LLC, $3 million to pay for renovations at McCoy Stadium and $775,000 to support the Volvo Ocean Race.
The 38 Studios debacle was among the reasons cited in the report as justification for the elimination of the R.I. Commerce Corporation, formerly known as the Economic Development Corporation.
“No matter what name the General Assembly has given the government agency tasked with improving the local economy, the concept hasn’t worked,” the report stated. The Center for Freedom & Prosperity estimated $6.2 million in savings for the state if it shuttered the agency.
Other potential savings opportunities highlighted in the report included:
- $30.2 million to eliminate state spending that replaces decreased federal funding.
- $19.1 million to reduce state employee overtime expenses.
- $15.2 million to eliminate the Unified Health Infrastructure Program.
- $11 million to eliminate House and Senate legislative grants and community service grants.
- $8.4 million to eliminate the Governor’s Workforce Board.
- $3.4 million to eliminate the R.I. Film and Television Office and associated tax credits.
- $2.8 million to reduce facilities management costs by encouraging telecommuting.
- $2.3 million to eliminate state funding for the R.I. State Council on the Arts.
In its assessment of RISCA’s grant-awarding program, the Center for Freedom & Prosperity criticized the agency’s support of “questionable and widely offensive art projects” that some taxpayers would find “in conflict with their political, ethical or religious beliefs.” The report recommended defunding RISCA and transferring its functions to a private nonprofit.