From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in GoLocal24.com
‘Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo commendably wants the state to be a lot more like Massachusetts – a desire reflected in her State of the State address and her (too?) ambitious budget proposals. That’s especially true when it comes to her ideas on how to advance public education -- K-college/voke school -- the heart of her program, around which hovers the question of how tough her administration will be willing and able to be on standards, as measured by tests.
The legislature is casting a gimlet eye on how she would fund her proposals, which would hike some fees, broaden the currently rather narrow sales tax and “scoop’’ some money from some quasi-public agencies. And who knows what might happen if we get a recession in the next year or so? We’d like to see contingency plans.
By the way, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker also wants to raise taxes, in part to boost education aid to the localities. Among his proposals: putting a levy on opioid sales, broadening the excise tax to include vaping products, and boosting the tax that homeowners pay when they sell their house. The $150 million a year projected to come from this levy is supposed to go “resiliency-building’’ projects to address such effects of global warming as increased coastal flooding, flooding that’s already cutting property values in some places.
The biggest problem that all Rhode Island governors have in trying to implement programs like Massachusetts’s is simply that the Ocean State, while richer (in median household income, etc.) than the majority of states is much poorer than the Bay State, with its huge wealth-creating (and thus tax revenue) machine in Greater Boston based on technology, world-famed higher education, financial services and health care. (Consider that Massachusetts General Hospital alone has just announced a $1 billion building project).
Rhode Island, which has been much slower than Massachusetts to move away from its old mill culture, has nothing like this. But it does have proximity to Boston, which it must leverage with its own strengths, especially in such sectors as design and marine-related industries. The best thing that Rhode Island could do economically is make itself part of Greater Boston.