Despite State Law, Rhode Island Has Never Evaluated Its Business Tax Incentives

[NOTE: An audio version of this story aired on Rhode Island Public Radio.]

In 2013, Rhode Island lawmakers directed the state’s revenue department to analyze tax incentives created to spur economic development. The idea was to assess whether those incentives were actually working.

Linda Katz, co-founder and policy director of the non-profit Economic Progress Institute, was one of the people who supported the law.

“It’s the bang for the buck,” said Katz, whose organization advocates for policies that benefit lower-income Rhode Islanders. “We want to know if we’re giving away money in order to either attract a company here, keep a company here, try to ignite some activity, that we know that, at the end of getting that tax break, we’re actually better off than we were before the company got here.”

But there’s one key problem: the state has yet to produce a single evaluation required under the law. The first report was due last June. Continue reading Despite State Law, Rhode Island Has Never Evaluated Its Business Tax Incentives

Bruce Gagnon Is Right; Maine Has Been ‘Outsourced’ to Bath Iron Works

I’m skeptical of bold claims.

That’s why I wondered last week if peace activist Bruce Gagnon was indulging in a little hyperbole when he sent me an email alleging a local newspaper, the Maine legislature, and the city of Bath’s police department were all abdicating their duty to the public and instead doing the bidding of Navy contractor Bath Iron Works.

Gagnon is currently leading the campaign against a proposed $60-million tax credit to BIW, a builder of Navy destroyers and a subsidiary of defense industry behemoth General Dynamics.

“The Bath PD was outsourced to BIW/GD,” Gagnon’s email read, “the Times Record newspaper has been outsourced to BIW/GD, and the Maine state legislature has been outsourced to BIW/GD.”

But, after looking into each of these claims, I can’t say I disagree. Continue reading Bruce Gagnon Is Right; Maine Has Been ‘Outsourced’ to Bath Iron Works

Jingoism From the So-Called Left

[NOTE: A version of this opinion article was published on RIFuture.org.]

There are many people on the left who think “Russiagate” merits wall-to-wall news coverage and MSNBC’s near-singular focus.

I’m not one of them. In fact, I’m beginning to find the rhetoric coming out of the Democratic Party on Russia, with its comparisons to the deadly attacks of 9/11 and Pearl Harbor, more than misplaced. They’re irresponsible and frightening. Continue reading Jingoism From the So-Called Left

Maine State Rep. Jennifer DeChant Sought Corporate ‘Talking Points’ to ‘Counter’ Activists

When faced last year with growing criticism over her plans to propose a $60-million tax deal to one of Maine’s largest private employers, state Rep. Jennifer DeChant turned to an apparently reliable ally: the very company she was advocating for.

“Jon- I am sure you have seen the Op Ed piece below,” DeChant said in a Dec. 4 email to Bath Iron Works attorney Jon Fitzgerald, following the publication that same day of a commentary in Portland’s Press Herald by peace activist Bruce Gagnon, titled, “General Dynamics has no business asking for more tax breaks.”

DeChant continued, “I am looking for some talking points to counter this.” She suggested they would be used in an upcoming meeting with constituents. Continue reading Maine State Rep. Jennifer DeChant Sought Corporate ‘Talking Points’ to ‘Counter’ Activists

General Dynamics CEO Calls Republican Tax Law a ‘Happy Event’

Top brass at defense contractor General Dynamics, owner of New England subsidiaries Bath Iron Works, and Electric Boat, say they are buoyed by the anticipated reduction in their company’s effective tax rate under the sweeping “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” pushed into law last month by Republican members of Congress and Pres. Donald Trump.

On an earnings call earlier this week, Chief Financial Officer Jason W. Aiken told analysts the company, based in Falls Church, Virg., will likely see its 2017 full year rate of 28.6 percent drop to 19 percent in 2018.

According to a transcript of the call available online, Chief Executive Officer Phebe N. Novakovic characterized the passage of the tax overhaul as “a happy event.” Continue reading General Dynamics CEO Calls Republican Tax Law a ‘Happy Event’

A Key Defense Player, Maine Sen. Susan Collins Has Financial Ties to Military Contractors

As a longtime member of the powerful Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has sat for years at the intersection of Pentagon policy-making and the business of the nation’s wealthiest and most well connected military contractors.

Along the way, she’s accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from those very companies, some of which, federal records show, her family held a personal financial stake in through her husband’s many and wide-ranging corporate stock investments.

Senate financial disclosure reports covering calendar years 2012 to 2016, the most recent year on record, show Collins’s husband, Thomas Daffron, has current or past share holdings in more than a dozen prominent defense contractors, including Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Honeywell, United Technologies, Harris Corporation, General Electric, and L3 Communications. Continue reading A Key Defense Player, Maine Sen. Susan Collins Has Financial Ties to Military Contractors

Jack Reed, Jim Langevin, and the Defense Industry

[NOTE: This opinion article was published simultaneously on RIFuture.com.]

A couple months back, I was emailed by South County, R.I., activist Jonathan Daly-LaBelle, who wanted to know if I’d seen Rep. Jim Langevin’s press release announcing the rationale behind his recent yes vote on a nearly $700-billion Pentagon budget.

It “is really quite disturbing,” Daly-LaBelle wrote.

No argument from me on this one.

Langevin, Democrat of Rhode Island’s Second Congressional District, has embraced a bizarre and increasingly dangerous stance on “defense” issues in recent years, and that attitude was on full display in his prepared statement.

Among his many points in support of a monstrous Pentagon budget that will go unaudited, as it always does, and undoubtedly lead to waste, was the contention that Congress must make certain “our nation’s warfighters are never sent into a fair fight.”

Tough talk.

But maybe Langevin should consider asking all those innocent civilians in the numerous countries we’ve dropped bombs on since 9/11 what it feels like to be on the receiving end of an “unfair fight.” Continue reading Jack Reed, Jim Langevin, and the Defense Industry