Mattiello Receives Vote of Confidence from RI Business Leaders

Friday, April 18, 2014
Victor Paul Alvarez, GoLocalProv Contributor

While the Feds investigate his predecessor's campaign finance records, new House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello is getting high marks from local business leaders for his economic agenda.

Mattiello favors cuts to corporate and sales taxes and a lessening of the financial impact of estate tax rules. He's told business leaders they need to be involved with the legislative process.

“The Chamber would give the new Speaker an A+ for addressing the priorities and needs of the business community in Rhode Island,” said Janet Raymond, MBA, Senior Vice President of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce.

“Legislation to reduce the corporate income tax and to address the estate tax are high priorities of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, both of which were mentioned by the Speaker as legislation that he would favor.”

In his first public speech Wednesday, the Cranston Democrat shared his vision of Rhode Island’s economic future with local business leaders at the Providence Marriott Downtown. At the breakfast meeting, hosted by the Chamber, Mattiello said he believes regulatory reforms can ignite the local economy.

"We are pleased that the Speaker is keeping to his word to focus on the economy and will consider tax cuts,” said Mike Stenhouse, founder and CEO for the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, a state-based free-enterprise public policy think tank. Stenhouse has an Economics degree from Harvard University, and also had an 8-year professional baseball career, including stints as a major leaguer with the 1986 Boston Red Sox American League Championship team.

“Our Center's sales tax reform ideas will provide the biggest boost to our stagnant jobs market and will save money for every Rhode Island family and business. Of course, it remains to be seen how far related legislation will be allowed to advance or if destructive tax or fee hikes will be imposed as an offset. The recipe for the Ocean State's economy is to cut spending and reduce the size and scope of government. Our recent Spotlight On $pending report, highlighting over $220 million in non-essential spending, demonstrates that major sales tax cuts along with complete repeal of the estate tax can be paid for without any cuts to vital programs."

Awaiting results

Mattiello received an “A for effort” from the East Providence Area Chamber of Commerce, the second oldest chamber in Rhode Island serving East Providence and Barrington, as well as Seekonk and Rehoboth. Executive Director Laura A. McNamara said she’s withholding a final grade until the time when the Speaker’s efforts pay actual dividends.

“Once the results of his proposals are realized, then we can discuss a final grade. Speaker Mattiello is calling out the business community to show up at the State House. Whether his comment was meant to be taken figuratively or literally, it needs to be explained that it is not the culture of the business community to appear at the State House en masse with picket signs and to testify at hearings. If push comes to shove they will do it, but the numbers will not match those of other special interest groups. This does not mean that business people are apathetic and content with the way things are,” she said.

McNamara believes Speaker Mattiello and the General Assembly have the ability to turn Rhode Island’s economy around by passing legislation that is business-friendly to existing businesses and welcoming to new businesses considering a move to Rhode Island.

“When the chambers of commerce and other business organizations speak out, it is on behalf of their members who cannot afford to take time out of their work day to do so. The businesses also cannot afford to send their employees out on their behalf. The East Providence Area Chamber is a partner in the Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce Coalition, a partnership of ten Rhode Island chambers of commerce representing over 7, 000 businesses. We are represented at the State House and routinely testify for or against legislation that affects the business community. We just don’t show up with busloads of people to do it.”

Another A

Dr. Edward M. Mazze, Distinguished University Professor of Business Administration at The University of Rhode Island, said Mattiello’s success in the short term should include a measure of what others achieve in helping him move the State forward. As of now, the professor is giving the new Speaker an A.

“In public statements and his actions on the floor of the General Assembly, the Speaker is hitting the right issues that will turn around the state's economy and create jobs. He is committed to reducing the state's unemployment rate, making the state business friendly and eliminating laws and regulations that prevent businesses from growing. The Speaker has a vision which I believe will turn into reality,” Mazze said.

“The Speaker immediately took a stand on three critical tax matters: the corporate tax, the estate tax and the sales tax. He is also asking the business community to support these initiatives by getting involved with government. The Speaker will also need the ideas and experience of others in achieving his objectives. For many years, the business community have been ‘bench warmers’ watching, not acting and expecting government to solve all economic problems. The business community is not proactive other than in complaining or protecting their own interests.”

  • Governor Lincoln Chafee

    "My goal is to have the state continue to focus on the fundamentals.  We will invest in education, workforce development and infrastructure , and provide aid to  cities and towns to lessen the burden on property taxpayers.  I’m confident that these investments and our focus on the basics will allow Rhode Island to exceed Moody’s predictions.”
  • Speaker Gordon Fox

    "Among the many pieces of legislation the House will address will be issues of higher education affordability, expanding apprenticeship opportunities, and offering help to our manufacturers.  We will also look closely at our tax structure to make sure we are competitive with our neighboring states, including the corporate tax and the estate tax, and I will carefully review the recommendations of the commission studying our sales tax.”

  • Senate Pres. Paiva-Weed

    Greg Pare, spokesperson for the Senate President, said that the Senate is planning to issue recommendations soon on workforce development initiatives to address the skills gap among Rhode Island job seekers.

    "An example of a proposal anticipated in that report is the elimination of state’s Indirect Cost Recovery on the Job Development Fund, which is about $1.2 million this year. Those funds would be directed towards job training and skills development programs to provide immediate impact and help workers gain the skills necessary to succeed in today’s economy."

  • Gen. Treasurer Raimondo

    "To grow our economy, we need to make Rhode Island a leader in manufacturing again.  Great things can happen at the intersection of government, higher education, and the private sector.  Rhode Island is lucky to have thriving institutions in each of these three sectors, and we need to foster collaboration among them to find solutions to our challenges, and spark our economy.  

    By promoting partnerships in high-growth areas, [Rhode Island Innovation Institute] will help grow our manufacturing base, and create new, high-quality jobs."  

  • Ken Block

    "First, we need to fix Rhode Island’s broken Unemployment Insurance program. The state’s Unemployment Insurance tax, paid by employers, is ranked worst in the country by the Tax Foundation. It is one of the factors that makes Rhode Island an uncompetitive place to do business. Also, it is inherently unfair that a large group of businesses are effectively subsidizing the payrolls of a small group of businesses who misuse the system. There is a simple change to state law that can fix this problem."

    "Rhode Island’s temporary disability tax (TDI) is broken, and places an unnecessarily high tax burden on Rhode Islanders. This tax, paid for by employees, will be reduced by changing the way we manage the program. As Governor, I will substantially reduce the cost of purchasing this insurance by requiring that Rhode Island’s program adhere to national norms."

    "To best encourage new job creation, I propose the following tax incentive: exempt from future capital gains taxes any new investments in Rhode Island-based businesses. This change would create a powerful incentive for investors who are deciding where to locate a new business, or where they relocate an existing one. This proposal has the potential change the economic playing field for Rhode Island."

  • Minority Leader Newberry

    “It would be overly ambitious to set being #1 as a goal right now, but we think 25, the middle of the pack, is a reasonable goal to set, one we think we should pursue, and one we can achieve,” said Newberry. "One of the initiatives is a requirement that every bill receive a fiscal evaluation before it can be heard by committee, better insuring that legislators know the real cost of the legislation they are acting on."

    "Another proposal would exempt social security income from RI state income tax, making Rhode Island more tax-friendly for our seniors and keeping them here rather than migrating to more tax-friendly states."

    “Strong action is way overdue here. Nearly 60% of Rhode Islanders now believe that the state is headed in the wrong direction. We think they’re right, and our central goal is to get it turned around."

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