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Part 1: Mark Baumer Reflection: Impounding Vehicles & Immigrant Rights

This is part of a multi-part reflection I've been doing following the death of my friend, Mark Baumer . There's nothing graphic i...

Letter to Rebecca Turco at ABC 6

You can view the ABC 6 report here. It starts by editorializing about how hated the car tax is, and then gives no information about why anyone might oppose lowering the car tax. It doesn't talk about "one state, one rate". It's a discussion between the right (Raimondo) and the far right (Mattiello) with no progressive alternatives.
Dear Ms. Turco,

I saw your piece on the car tax and felt compelled to write you. I have already written on this in the Projo and appeared on NBC 10 with Katie Davis, and I am disappointed that your network gave the issue such one-sided coverage.

It's important for Rhode Island to keep it's car tax, and to make it a one state, one rate tax.

The Speaker says he stands for justice. 

In reality, the Speaker of the House is proposing a very regressive tax cut. Here's how the breakdown would be in Providence, for example:

Owner of a $40k car: $2,280 tax cut
$10K car: $480 tax cut$3K car: $60RIPTA rider: $0     

[By the way, I used Providence in my email, but if you live somewhere else, you can take this same pattern, except make the numbers smaller. Here are the rates-- take the vehicle value, multiply it by the rate, and for the Speaker's tax cut ]

A number of countries have high car taxes-- much higher than anywhere in the U.S., including Rhode Island. Yet those countries tend to have better equality records. Why? Because subsidizing cars is a money loser. A place like Denmark (most egalitarian country in the world) has a 180% car tax (once, not per year). The Danish spend money on education, and universal childcare, and making sure everyone has housing. They don't spend money subsidizing cars.

In the U.S., drivers only pay 51% of the cost of roads. That doesn't mean the cost goes away. Instead, we pay for it through other taxes. And many of those taxes-- income, sales, property-- are more regressive than the car tax. We have proposed that the state increase its Earned Income Tax Credit, lower its sales tax, or reduce property taxes on rental properties (PVD has a higher rate on rental than owned property, which hurts the poor). These tax cuts would also help drivers save money, but they would simply save as renters, workers, or buyers of goods.

Speaker Mattiello calls for excluding undocumented immigrants
from having drivers' licenses, which would prevent them from
legally registering a car. This also excludes them from one of his
big agenda priorities: ending the car tax.
The Speaker also ignores how improving transit could lower the impact of the car tax. 77% of Rhode Islanders live within a ten minute walk of transit according to Grow Smart RI, but only 3% use RIPTA regularly. Why? Because RIPTA runs infrequently in many places. It's not useful to have a bus close by if it doesn't run often. But we could double, triple, quadruple, or even quintuple the operational aid to RIPTA the state gives for less money than cutting all cars taxes. This would help some families go from one car to zero, or two cars to one.

The Speaker has to gall to try to keep our immigrant neighbors from driving, but then proposes a tax cut that only drivers can get. 25% of Providence [it's actually 22%] does not drive, and nearly 50% of Olneyville does not drive. For the transit user who pays for transit fares throughout the year, that costs $840/year. That's more than the car tax costs for a $20,000 car in Speaker Mattiello's Cranston district [see rates]. The Speaker and the Governor have not taken action to fix the disabled RIPTA fare program, which would only cost $800,000 a year to fund. Yet we're told we should support a $215 million a year cost? And cut pensions too?

And in a recent tweet storm, the Speaker stood against free 2 year public college. That would cost only $30 million a year, and help working class and middle class families rise into better jobs. He has the gall to say that we can't afford to educate our children, even though his tax cut costs more than seven times what the governor's education plan costs. Shame!

Keep the car tax: make it "one state, one rate" so it's fair for everyone. Cut a different, more regressive tax. Support transit. Stand up for our immigrant neighbors. This is what Rhode Island needs to do.


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