What’s in…What’s out…. By Joanne Giannini… December 30, 2016

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What’s in……

Blackstone Valley Community Action….This time of year there are many who need help with energy costs and staying warm. There is help out there from agencies who offer services to help you if you qualify.  Blackstone Valley Community Action program offers assistance to Pawtucket, Central Falls, Cumberland, Lincoln, NorthSmithfield, and Woonsocket. For more info call 401-723-0227 or 401-765-3528.

McAuley House….A shout out to McAuley House and the wonderful work they do. McAuley Ministries is an independent nonprofit organization sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy. They provide food, clothing, health services,and guidance to the most vulnerable in our society with dignity and compassion. They are always there for everyone who needs them!

The 2018 Race for Governor…. may be a while away but candidates are already throwing their hints to the press! Amongst the speculated contenders are: Mayor Alan Fung, Block, Giovanni Feroce, Robert Flanders, Rep. Patricia Morgan,and of course Gina Raimondo!  It will take a well known established candidate with lots of money to compete! Anyone else interested?

Whats out…..

What’s out…. 2016 is on its way out the door and with a good shove too! This was the year of all years.  We saw a Presidential race like no other. We have a new President and Washington is getting ready for a huge change. We saw the Olympics grace us with entertainment and beautiful opening and closing ceremonies from Rio.  We enter the New Year with wishes for good health,hope and happiness for all!

The Infamous Car Tax…. has hit many a bumpy road in its day but it looks like it’s days may be numbered.  A campaign promise by Representative Nick Matiello promises a rebirth of the phase out that was promised to the people of Rhode Island in 1998. And Matiello told Channel 12’s Danielle North that he always keeps his promises.  I think the people of Rhode Island will hold him to this one!

Election Hangover Protests and Riots…. No, not everyone was happy with the results of the election, but the time has come for everyone to come together to work for a better nation.  We will not always agree on issues, but we can agree that we all want what’s best for our country and our children.  We want to grow as a nation and protect our homeland and the  fundamentals of what this country was built on.  Hostility and riots do not factor in this.  Let’s hope for a peaceful transition and dream for better things to come! Happy New Year to you and yours!

Its back….The Car Tax Phase out Promise

img_2793It’s Back…The Car Tax Phase Out Promise

It’s Deja Vu all over again. The infamous unfair car tax tax is the most hated tax in Rhode Island. It’s the political football every election season. You know, the one everyone kicks around every election year but fails to score a touchdown with. Oh it’s discussed by many and promised by many to be eliminated or revised in some way, but like an injured quarterback , it’s put on the bench.

House Speaker Matiello has promised to eliminate the car tax. This has caused me to reminisce about the history of the car tax phase out program. In a special report by Danielle North of Channel 12 News, Matiello promised an elimination of the car tax in five years.

In 1997, I chaired a House Legislative commission to study ways to eliminate the car tax and inventory tax in Rhode Island. This derived out of a bill I introduced in 1996 to lower the car taxes in Rhode Island. As a result of this commission, the General Assembly passed the Fiscal year 1999 State Budget (P.L. 1998, Chapter 31) which included an article beginning the process to eliminate all vehicle property taxes by 2005. The first checks, totaling $5,849,127.94, were mailed to all the state’s municipalities and fire districts as the state’s first advance tax reimbursements n November of 1998. The General Assembly repealed the motor vehicle tax by increasing exemptions, beginning with. $1500 exemption in Fiscal year 2000, and then raising exemptions each year and also by freezing rates at the FY 1998 levels. General state revenues were to be used to reimburse cities and towns for loss revenue, eventually including the then 0.6 cents of the sales tax which was used to pay the DEPCO debt.

This was a good plan to eliminate the most regressive tax in the State. It made no sense that vehicles in the town of New Shoreham were assessed at $9.20 per thousand, while Providence motor vehicles were assessed at $76.78 per thousand dollars.

I was happy to co-sponsor the Motor Vehicle Excise tax elimination phase out program in 1998. I was also appointed the Chairperson of the Permanent oversight commission to oversee the implementation of the program. We were all excited to be getting rid of an unfair tax and being able to help everyone that owns a motor vehicle.

Unfortunately that excitement was short lived. After two years of its implementation, the car tax elimination program was frozen under the Lincoln Almond administration based on the argument
that state revenues could no longer afford the reimbursements to cities and towns and that the reimbursements were hurting other programs. I remember voting “no” on freezing the program because I believed then and still do now that the General Assembly made a commitment to the people of Rhode Island to end the car tax.

In 2005, I filed House Bill H5077 to reinstate the phase out of the motor vehicle excise tax program by 2008. The exemptions people were to be taxed on would be increased yearly causing the amount of taxation on cars to decrease eventually phasing out the car tax. State revenues were to be coming from the Twin River expansion.

In June of 2006, the House of Representatives, passed a bill I submitted to accelerate the dormant car tax phase out plan be exempting the first $6,000 of a car’s value in fiscal year 2007. This was good news, because we were finally back on the field again and ready to have a winning touchdown for the people of Rhode Island.

Again, that good news ended a few years later when the General Assembly passed an article to end the car tax phase out plan submitted by then Governor Donald Carcieri because of tough economic times in 2010. I cringed when this happened because I knew it was the end of a fifteen year process that should have resulted with a complete phase out of the car tax.

To make matters worse, the General Assembly then dropped the exemption of car values for local tax purposes from $6,000 to $500.00 in 2011 leaving taxpayers stunned with car tax bills higher than they had paid in previous years. Since then, the focus has been put on the Rhode Island Vehicle Value Commission and the way it values motor vehicles. The problem for municipalities is that they feel if the vehicle values are lowered, the cities and towns may receive
less revenue from taxes collected and therefore have budget shortages. Per state law, the vehicle value commission uses the clean retail value of the make and year of a vehicle for tax purposes and there is no appeal process for the vehicle owner.

There is no fair way to lower the car taxes in our state because every municipality pays a different amount on their assessed vehicles. The only fair way is to eliminate the car tax completely is with a car tax phase out program. The legislation to eliminate the car tax in 1998 was the only fair way to do this.

This still can be done by reinstating the car tax phase out in this budget program. Yes, the figures might change but the legislation passed and the fundamental law is still there from 1998. Tell your legislator and local elected officials to reinstate the car tax phase out program because It’s a fulfillment of a promise made in 1998 to the people of Rhode Island. It’s a tax relief for everyone who owns a vehicle.

It’s time for all Rhode Islanders to speak up and it’s time for our Rhode Island elected officials to kick this political football into the end zone.

What’s in…What’s out… By Joanne Giannini

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What’s in….

Billy Gilman… may have not won the voice but he still is a winner in Rhode Islanders hearts.  He has made a comeback and is on his way to greater things. The hometown singer still proved that hard work and determination can make your dreams come alive. Congratulations Billy Gilman, you made us proud!

Giovanni Feroce …has stirred quite a buzz on Facebook and in the media with his comments about considering a run for Governor. Feroce is an independent businessman who is no stranger to politics. He was a Rhode Island State Senator. He is credited with bringing Alex and Ani to the top of the charts when he was there and adding 4,000 jobs . Who knows what’s next for the CEO of Benrus, but I don’t think it will be boring!

Marijuana in Massachusetts…Recreational marijuana is now legal in Massachusetts. There are some restrictions about selling it and having it in an automobile.  What will this mean for Rhode Island? Will we see a push in our General Assembly for legalization of recreational marijuana? This still has some legal ramifications considering under federal law marijuana is still illegal. Rhode Island better do some serious research and consideration before going down this slippery slope.

What’s out….

Brown University …is planning to rent space in the new Wexford development but Wexford has refused to disclose how much they are paying per foot.  With an endowment of $3.2 billion dollars, how much does  Brown need? Brown University has also leased  space in the new South Street landing (URI/RIC nursing school) which is the top two floors. Besides being tax exempt and expanding everywhere they can, when will Brown donate their fair share to Providence who desperately needs the funds?

The Providence Place Mall  garage …has announced plans to renovate its parking lot. Anyone who has been to the mall will tell you, it’s a nightmare parking and driving in that lot. Not to mention finding a pay station that works is like going on a treasure hunt.  Here’s an idea to help those businesses who are struggling to pay high rents. Why don’t they offer 2 hours free Holiday parking with a purchase? It’s time to do more to promote Providence!

Yahoo….as confirmed in a statement that at least 500 million user accounts were hacked in a huge data breach.The account information may include names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth etc. Yahoo is working with law enforcement to investigate the hacking which took place in late 2014.  One has to question why we are just hearing this now. Get with it Yahoo, you have a responsibility to your account users!

 

 

 

 

What’s in, What’s out…. By Joanne Giannini

img_3059What’s in…..

The State House Christmas tree…. has made its annual appearance at the Rhode Island State House last week, but not after a bumpy start! The first tree delivered to the State House was too small. Dubbed the “Charlie Brown Christmas tree”, the tree was placed in another location and the second tree was donated by a family to the State. I am so glad we are back to calling it what it is, “A Christmas tree” instead of trying to change what has been hundreds of years of tradition.

The Mae Organization….. has raised over $15,000 for the homeless in a star studded fundraiser last month hosted by Martinha Javid, head of a group of volunteers who walk the walk instead of talk the talk.  These folks are in the trenches everyday with the homeless, not because they are paid to do it because they choose to do it! Kudos to Martinha and her organization for all their hard work.

Legislation By Rep. Charlene Lima…has been put on the forefront this week. Rep. Lima is seeking transparency concerning the marijuana dispensaries and cultivators in this state. She is calling for full disclosure of all parties who are involved in the process of cultivating marijuana for sale. This is just a prelude to what will be a series of legislation filed if this state legalizes recreational marijuana.  It’s time we learn who all the people are in this state who are profiting from this business.

 

Whats out….

The West Valley Inn… has served thousands of Rhode Islanders for years.  It is an institution in out state. We all can remember going to weddings, functions and family dinners there.  It is with a heavy heart we say goodbye to a restaurant who offered affordable weddings and functions to us with good results.  The latest  offer  being considered is from a church who has offered to buy one of the buildings. It’s too bad that the present owners wish of keeping it a restaurant in the sale cannot be fulfilled.

The Department of Human Services computer system … has had more drama than an award winning  television series. It’s Christmas time and the backlog continues. Not to mention that  approximately 45 people lost their jobs in a reorganizational  blunder that is going to cost the state even more money. Someone has got to get it right and get it right  now. Why are they making excuses for what was a poor administrative decision?

The Obama Admistration….serves its last month in Washington. Regardless of what you think of President Obama, you have to admit he always conducted himself with dignity and class. I may not have agreed with him on everything, but I respect his stamina and his ability to make us laugh at the right moment.

 

 

 

 

 

The Towers…. If they build it, who will come?

img_3052The  proposed Hope Point Towers for the 195 land in Providence may indeed be a Christmas wish for  New York developer Jason Fane.

The three towers which range in height from 33 to 43 to 55 stories high would tower the city’s landscape and overlook the Providence River and downtown Providence. The intent is for them to be high end apartments and condos  which woukd sit on five story podiums that would include commercial and retail use.

The Providence journal has reported that the I-95 commission will  pay $10,000 for a cost analysis to Real Estate Solutions Group, a New Jersy firm. I guess there are no Rhode Island firms that wanted this job?

Clearly  the height of the proposed towers will be an issue for the commission.  The tallest building in the City now is the famed “Superman Building” which is a mere 26 stories high and there is already difficulty in finding proper use for that.

Plans for the proposed “Hope Towers ” sound very high end with a mixture of condominiums, apartments, retail stores, a parking lot and a residents only movie theatre. I can’t help but wonder who would be able to afford these apartments? And didn’t we have high end apartments and condos in downtown before near the Western Hotel? One has to ask how much would it cost to rent an apartment there?  To go  one step further, how much would a condo cost?

The entire project could cost between $400 and $500 million to develop as stated by Jason Fane, president of the Fane Organization. In a Providence journal interview, Council President Luis Aponte dubbed the project “The three towers of Evil”.  Councilman Aponte may be right.

There are so many questions to be answered before a project like this proceeds. And I hope they are asked by the Commission. Questions include asking just who they are targeting in their market strategy. People also want to know what kind of tax incentives and subsidies this company is looking to get from the city and state. How feasible is this project ? Will it sell?  Will we be left with another empty downtown Superman building? Most importantly, will the taxpayers foot the bill?

These questions and more need to be addressed and public meetings should be held before this project is approved. The so called “Hope Towers” could very quickly turn into the “Towers of Terror” if this project is given a fast ride.