Saturday, November 29, 2008

Rhode Island Treasurer Caprio Woos Massachusetts Shoppers


Greetings from the state of Rhode Island! Since I've spent the past few days camped out at my mother's house, I've been watching our local news. Amid the stories of the latest record-setting blood alcohol content (kudos for not dying, dude!) is this interesting item.

Rumored gubernatorial hopeful and current Rhode Island State Treasurer Frank Caprio has installed billboards near the border of Massachusetts telling Bay Staters to spend, spend, spend on clothes in the Ocean State, since there is no sales tax on clothing here. He's even spent some of his campaign funds to create a website, which features a video of the too-tan Caprio giving potential out-of-state visitors the hard sell.

But Caprio is really reaching with this. Massachusetts doesn't have a sales tax on clothes for the first $175. After that, the Bay State only taxes on the amount over $175. So if you spend $300 on some astoundingly expensive specialty item, you pay only $6.25 in tax. Unless you live in Attleboro or drive a hybrid, you'll spend more on gas to get here than you'd save.

Also: Why aren't Rhode Islanders really angry that their treasurer is using this opportunity to raise some extra money to better his political career? Rhode Island is facing a budget deficit of at least $357 million in FY2009, and perhaps as much as $486 million for FY2010. Legislators on Smith Hill are preaching the same breathless rhetoric about needing new revenue as their cohorts on Beacon Hill. Why not start taxing luxury items in the Ocean State to make a few extra bucks instead of cutting services for those who can't afford a mink coat?

Caprio will argue that Rhode Island will collect the various meal and lodging taxes from shoppers who come to enjoy a break from the tyranny of Taxachusetts. But maybe he should stop playing governor and start acting like a treasurer. Most Rhode Island voters will be happy to watch the state get some revenue from those who aren't as white-knuckled as they are during this economic meltdown.

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