Rep. Scott J. Guthrie (D-Dist. 28, Coventry) has proposed four plans to raise more revenues and ease the state's continuing budget deficit crunch.
One plan adds an extra $37.9 million into the state general fund for fiscal years 2013 and 2014. Another results in a revenue gain of $66.8 million for the two-year period. The third would hike state revenues by $76.6 million for the two fiscal years, and the fourth brings in an additional $134.5 million over that same period.
"As the state budget deficit continues to loom large, for yet another year, one phrase continues to remain popular from elected officials: shared sacrifice," said Representative Guthrie.
"Well, I see municipalities sacrificing, as well as many of the residents of those communities. I see sacrifices from the poorest and neediest in Rhode Island, the results of continued trimming in the social services funding. What I don't see is sacrifice from the wealthiest members of our society who could most easily afford to give a little more to help their many neighbors and fellow citizens who are suffering."
"Trickle down doesn't work. We've tried it for years and all the benefits continue to trickle up," Guthrie went on to say. "We need a shift back to a more fair tax policy."
Representative Guthrie has introduced four pieces of legislation, all calling for a fourth tax bracket that would apply different percentages of tax increases to different thresholds of income.
(2012-H7305) would impose an additional one percent tax increase for all personal income over $500,000. Doing that would bring in an additional $18.4 million in Fiscal Year 2013 and an extra $19.5 million in 2014, according to a State Fiscal Note provided by the Budget Office of the Department of Administration.
(2012-H7379) would impose an additional one percent tax increase for all personal income over $250,000. That would result in an additional $32.4 million in tax revenue in FY 2013 and an extra $34.3 million the following year.
(2012-H7382) provides for an additional two percent tax increase on personal income over $500,000. The added revenue would be $37.3 million for FY 2013 and $39.4 million for FY 2014.
(2012-H7381) provides for an additional two percent tax increase on personal income over $250,000. Added revenue is projected by the Budget Office at $65.3 for fiscal year 2013 and $69.2 million for the following fiscal year.
"By instituting a fourth tax bracket we could solve many of our immediate budget problems, the ones that include deciding if we should cut more services for the needy or force classroom teachers, first responders and other public servants to take pay cuts and layoffs in order to balance budgets," Guthrie said.
"We constantly lament the poor economy and after lots of hand-wringing, we end up doing the same thing year after year after year; hurting those who are already hurting, cutting services for those who need them, forcing municipalities to bite the bullet harder or dig deeper into residents' pockets with higher property taxes," he said. "What we never seem to do is ask those who have benefited greatly while living in our state to give just a little bit more to help their fellow citizens."
"When the economy does better, everyone, including the rich, does better. These bills will help our economy by bringing in more revenue, which will help mitigate our budget problems which will help make our state financially healthier."
All four bills have been referred to the House Committee on Finance and Representative Guthrie said he has filed the appropriate requests for hearings on all the bills.
"I expect, by putting in these bills, that I will face accusations of engaging in class warfare," he said. "I'm not interested in fighting anyone; I am interested in helping everyone. And I want to believe that, whatever their salaries, those making $250,000 or $500,000 or more still consider themselves first and foremost Rhode Islanders and realize that we are all in this together and need to work through this together."
Representative Guthrie said he applauds the state's efforts the past few years to make Rhode Island more attractive to business, but that the end result of those efforts and initiatives has been tax policy that ensures the super-rich get the benefits of government while the rest of the citizens pay a higher bill.
"I think it's finally time to change that, to bring real tax equity and fairness to Rhode Island," he said.