Debunking the Providence Chamber / RIPEC false claims about increasing taxes on the top one percent

By Uprise RI

On Thursday, UpriseRI editor and founder Steve Ahlquist held a discussion with Representative Karen Alzate (Democrat, District 60, Pawtucket) and three experts in public policy on legislation that, when passed, would raise the income tax on the top one percent of Rhode Islanders.

The discussion was held in response to a video featuring Laurie White of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce and Michael DiBiase of the Rhode Island Public Expenditures Council (RIPEC), who spent some time floating flawed, tired and outright false arguments against a more fair tax code and in defense of the fortunes of the one percent.

In addition to Representative Karen Alzate, UpriseRI invited three people who are used to refuting the false narratives that apologists for the rich and powerful deploy against working people: Economic Policy Researcher Andy Boardman, Alan Krinsky from the Economic Progress Institute and Public Policy Consultant Tom Sgouros.

Among the many false claims the panel took on was the idea that the rich flee Rhode Island for lower tax states, that the proposed tax increase is really a tax on small businesses, that the original tax cuts were somehow revenue neutral, that state rankings from groups like the Tax Foundation are the least bit helpful in determining how well a state’s economy is functioning, and the idea that the tax burden in Rhode Island is “progressive.”

All these things, and many more claims made during the Providence Chamber / RIPEC video are patently false.

Representative Alzate’s bill, H5227, would “add one new income tax bracket for purposes of Rhode Island state income taxation. The new bracket would be a rate of 8.99% on taxable income over $400,500 (in 2011 dollars). Adjusted for inflation, the new tax bracket would apply to taxable income over approximately $475k (in 2020 dollars), impacting only the top one percent of taxpayers.”

Here are some links to sources mentioned in the discussion:

Revenue for Rhode island

Grading the States

Kids Count RI

Millionaire Tax Flight

Capitalists in the 21st Century

Rhode Islanders Don’t Move Because of Tax Policy

Another bill, from lead sponsor Representative Gregg Amore (Democrat, District 65, East Providence), H5229, would “create a new income tax bracket for purposes of Rhode Island income taxation. The new bracket would be 6.99% on taxable income over $500k, and any personal income tax collected on income over $500k would be deposited into a restricted receipt account, and shall only be expended on education for grades kindergarten through and including twelfth grade.”

Representative Amore could not be on the show due to House Committee meetings, but sent along this message:

“Many people believe that there is never a right time to raise any taxes. Those same people understand that the costs of all of the other goods and services they purchase rise year over year. RI faces a structural deficit for as many out years as the eye can see. We have a binary choice. Cut important programs, ignore pension funding and provide less services, or raise revenue through a progressive income tax structure that preserves those programs and services, and improves the quality of life for all Rhode Islanders.
“For over a decade we have shortchanged our Medicaid reimbursement obligations and for much longer than that we have ignored our crumbling school infrastructure and pension obligations. In order to responsibly address these, and many other pressing issues, at the same time we address our growing structural deficit, there is no other choice but to generate revenue. I believe this is the fairest approach to that end.”