By Alex Kowalski
PBN Staff Writer
CRANSTON - Rhode Island has seen little to no improvement in economic opportunity indexes from 2011, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity announced Thursday following the release of its 2012 Report Card On RI Competitiveness.
Based on the center’s economic measurements in 10 major categories, the Ocean State is failing or near-failing grades in terms of its tax burden, business climate and employment, education, energy, infrastructure and standard of living. The state’s worst performance was in business, jobs and income, ranking No. 50 in the country as a “state for business,” and No. 49 for its estate tax exemption, which sits at $910,725.
“For all the talk last year about positive legislative steps we supposedly took, the state’s dismal grade point average has barely moved,” Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the center, said in a release presenting the report. “The report card shows how poor public policy is strangling economic opportunities for families in our state in so many different areas.”
Median household income in Rhode Island did not measure up either: at $49,033, the state ranks last in New England overall. Median household incomes in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont averaged $10,200 more than in Rhode Island.
The center ranked Rhode Island No. 50 in the United States for “income redistribution” based on a No. 1 ranking by 24/7 Wall St. that includes the average weekly unemployment benefit, monthly cash assistance from TANF, spending per student and Medicaid payments per enrollee. Rhode Island is currently tied for last in unemployment with California with a jobless rate of 9.8 percent.
Out of 53 specific categories like median household income and corporate income tax rates, the state obtained only three above-average grades - a B+ in “parent power,” a B- in “labor force participation,” and an A- for having the fourth-lowest number of public employees per 100 private sector workers in the U.S. (13.4 percent).
In a recent report titled Zero.Zero.2013, the Center alleged that the state could create up to 25,000 jobs by eliminating the 7 percent sales tax while saving taxpayers nearly $1 billion.