House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan Introduces Package of Municipal Spending Reduction Tools
Lower Tax Burden Will Make Car Tax Elimination Permanent
STATE HOUSE — House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan (R-District 26 Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick) has introduced a package of legislation designed to bring fiscal relief to cities and towns across Rhode Island. These municipal spending reduction tools will eliminate and reform state mandated laws that prevent municipalities from being able to control their spending. If passed, the package will help towns reduce their costs for pensions, building repairs, insurance, and litigation. These bills provide a path to lessen and reduce the need to collect higher taxes from residents.
“Last year, the Republican caucus sponsored a budget amendment that would have eliminated the car tax. So we, of course, support Speaker Mattiello’s effort. However, although a sizeable down payment for elimination can come from the state budget, not all of it can or should. The price tag is over $200 million and that money comes from the same taxpayers who are paying property taxes and car taxes at the municipal level. We must start finding ways to lessen the entire tax burden on average families and give municipalities tools to control the items in their budgets that drive taxes higher,” stated Morgan.
“This session, I have introduced a series of bills that will begin the process of reducing the municipal tax burden. Legislators require the support of average people to reform these obligations because special interest groups will fight to keep their deals in place. Our goal is to take costly mandates off the backs of hardworking Rhode Islanders. Not only will the car tax be eliminated, but the annual ritual of ever-increasing property taxes can finally be paused. With these reforms, we can begin to look to a sustainable future,” she continued.
“These are common sense reforms that will make our citizens more financially secure. If we want to eliminate the car tax forever, we must find the wisdom to reform these bad, tax-gobbling policies. If we fail, I fear our state will continue to suffer with a tax burden among the worst in the country. This has created an environment that increases our cost of living, drags down our economy, and sends municipal leaders searching every year for new ways to tax or fee their residents. It’s time to fix longstanding policies that are broken.”
Among the bills submitted are:
Raises the prevailing wage cap from $1000 to $200,000 for municipal projects. Research has demonstrated that use of prevailing wages adds approximately 10% to costs and inhibits competition that might result in additional savings to taxpayers. Rhode Island has the lowest limit in the country. This would allow smaller projects to be competitively bid, helping towns get more for their money.
This legislation would require the Department of Labor and Training to offer classes in contract negotiation to municipal leaders. Last year, we discovered that the state gave $500,000 annually to a union-sponsored group. That group trains it union representatives in contract negotiations. Obviously, elected officials with no such training or experience are at a disadvantage at contract time. This would help level the playing field for school and town officials.
H-5718 and H-5719
These two bills deal with joint and several liability. They each reform the current legal standard, which allows a defendant with as little as 1% responsibility to be forced to pay 100% of the damages awarded. Cities and towns are often dragged into court disputes because they have an unlimited source of funds: the taxpayer. They are faced with either settling the case or spending countless sums on legal representation. Forty-two states have already enacted reforms. It’s time for Rhode Island to join them.
H-5747: Disability Pension Reform
We don’t need any more media investigations to know the system needs reform. It is too easy and lucrative to abuse. And it is an expensive program that drives property taxes higher and higher. We all want those who are truly hurt and unable to work to be protected, but we don’t want to reward cheaters. This bill was passed during Speaker Harwood’s tenure, but, sadly, was killed in the Senate. In the intervening years, municipal spending on pensions has skyrocketed, threatening the financial security of retirees and taxpayers alike.
This bill seeks to perform a study on consolidating municipal debt and using the savings to retire some of that debt.
For years, Representative Bob Lancia has alerted us that the 911 fee on our telephone bills raises millions more than the program needs for emergency services. This legislation would take the extra money that goes to the ‘general fund’ and give it to cities and towns for upgrading their dispatch equipment with the latest technology. This will save money and heighten safety