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  • January 23, 2013
    By David Scharfenberg

    Rhode Island's commentariat has given Governor Chafee relatively high marks for his budget proposal.

    The praise has focused, most of all, on the budget's political virtues. After a doomed attempt to broaden the state's sales tax in the early portion of his term - raising the hackles of the business community and many legislators - this was a fiscal blueprint that received a relatively warm reception in the halls of power.

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  • January 16, 2013
    By David Scharfenberg

    Governor Chafee, set to deliver his "State of the State" address at 7 pm tonight, will unveil a budget proposal designed to "make Rhode Island more competitive," invest in public education, assist struggling municipalities, and maintain and improve infrastructure.

    Staff gave reporters a glimpse at the specifics in a briefing this afternoon, on condition that they not reveal the details until the speech begins.

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  • December 05, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    Governor Lincoln Chafee has a habit of going out on a limb. Last year, he pushed for a doomed expansion of the state sales tax. His refusal to turn over murder suspect Jason Pleau to federal authorities, fearing they might seek the death penalty, seemed like a legal longshot from the start. And his stubborn insistence on calling the State House spruce a "holiday tree" - two years running now - remains deeply unpopular.

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  • November 12, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    With just three weeks to go before election day, Republican Congressional candidate Brendan Doherty scored a neat little coup: winning a joint a statement of support from former Republican Senator Alan Simpson and former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton Erskine Bowles.

    Simpson and Bowles, of course, co-chaired a commission appointed by President Obama that aimed to craft a bi-partisan solution to the nation's debt problem, combining cuts and new tax revenue.

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  • July 13, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    This week, Rhode Island again made a dismal showing on a "best places to do business" list: the state ranked dead-last in a CNBC report released on Tuesday.

    This latest ranking comes two years after the state lowered its top marginal tax rate in a bid to improve the state's reputation as a place to do business. The poor ranking, of course, doesn't prove the tax change was a bad idea; perhaps it was just the first of many steps Rhode Island must take to attract entrepreneurs.

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  • June 19, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    The New York Times' Joe Nocera has a column today, "When ALEC Takes Over Your Town," taking conservative Rhode Island State Representative Jon Brien (D-Woonsocket) to task for rejecting the General Assembly's push to impose a hefty property tax on Woonsocket in a bid to save the city from financial ruin.

    Much of Nocera's critique is fair.

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  • April 16, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    Senator Sheldon Whitehouse's Buffett Rule legislation takes center stage in American politics today, with the Senate expected to vote on the measure tonight.

    But it's not the only tax measure Congress will take up with Tax Day approaching. The GOP-controlled House will consider a measure, sponsored by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, that would hand a 20 percent tax deduction to businesses employing fewer than 500 people.

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  • March 30, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    Governor Lincoln Chafee, who has made the on-line video a go-to medium, is at it again with a well-produced pitch for his legislative package aimed at rescuing the state's floundering cities and towns. Dramatic music, a ticking clock, who knew Linc could be an action movie star?

    Still, as I noted in this space a couple of days ago, he faces an uphill climb in a General Assembly loathe to hit organized labor hard for the second year in a row: last year, it was sweeping pension reform for workers in the state-run system; Chafee's package could mean cuts in pay and pensions for municipal workers.

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  • February 23, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    Occupy Providence, alongside activists from AIDS advocacy group ACT UP and the Student Global AIDS Campaign plan to march today on the Biltmore Hotel, where Vice President Joe Biden will be appearing at a fundraiser for Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

    The march will begin at Burnside Park, former site of Occupy Providence's 24-hour-a-day protest, and land in front of the Biltmore where activists will call on the Obama Administration to support a Wall Street transaction tax that would bring in an estimated $350 billion over the next nine years.

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  • February 23, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    The new Brown University poll is out this morning and here's the topline: voters are, not surprisingly, opposed to the tax hikes and spending cuts Governor Chafee is proposing in his budget. And their already dim view of Congressman David Cicilline has taken a turn for the worse.

    The poll, of 514 registered voters February 16-18, shows 68 percent opposed to $30 hikes in driver's license and registration fees, 57 percent opposed to tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge, and 80 percent against hiking the meals and beverage tax from 7 to 10 percent.

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  • February 10, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has received plenty of ink - including a New York Times editorial page endorsement - for his "Buffett Rule" bill, named after the mega-rich investor Warren Buffett.

    Buffett has argued that wealthy investors like him, who face a 15-percent tax under current law, should pay at the same rate as middle-class folk - roughly 30 percent.

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  • February 03, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    There are, clearly, rewards for bold, blunt leadership in times of crisis.

    Last year, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras declared a "category 5 hurricane" on the city's books and was able to wrangle significant savings from municipal unions and push through a tax hike.

    Treasurer Gina Raimondo, meanwhile, made a very methodical case for an unsustainable state pension system and won an overhaul that landed her breathless national press.

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  • January 05, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    Forbes was in attendance today in new York as Treasurer Gina Raimondo accepted an award from the right-leaning Manhattan Institute for Public Policy Research for her work in overhauling the state pension system.

    The magazine's Tim Ferguson noted that Raimondo preached transparency: an unrelenting effort to educate the public on the nature and depth of the pension crisis, such that a broad constituency would "own the problem" and embrace reform.

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  • November 21, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    Ian Donnis over at WRNI chats with Senator Jack Reed, who remains hopeful that Congress, afte the failure of the supercommittee, can work out a deficit-cutting deal before automatic defense and social services cuts take hold in 2013.

    Other observers have suggested that the deal will come after the 2012 elections - perhaps in early 2013 - when one party or the other can claim the upper hand in Washington and steer matters to a conclusion.

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  • October 03, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    Last week, I sat down with Governor Chafee for an interview on several topics. I've written, in this space, about his comments on medical marijuana. But there were other quotes of note, too.

    Last month in a story on organized labor I reported that reamortizing the state's pension obligation - refinancing and kicking some of the problem down the road - was still part of the behind-the-scenes conversation on pension reform, even if the idea had largely disappeared from the public discourse.

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