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[POLL] What Do You Think About Chafee’s Proposed Meals Tax Hike?

Under the governor's budget plan, the restaurant tax would go from 8 percent to 10 percent next year.


When it comes to Gov. Chafee's proposal to increase the restaurant tax from 8 percent to 10 percent, restaurant owners in Rhode Island have strong feelings.

“This is a second restaurant tax,” said Matt Wronski, owner of and in East Greenwich. “First they added a percentage point that was going to be temporary,” he said, referring to the increase from 7 percent to 8 percent in 2003, when Gov. Carcieri was governor. That 1 percent, which is still collected, goes back to cities and towns. Chafee's 2 percent increase would go to funding education on the local level.

“Once they get their fingers in your pocket, they don’t let go,” said Wronski. “I’m from Detroit. I’ve seen this movie and it doesn’t turn out well.”

He continued: "I've had to cut staff. I've had to figure out better ways to make purchases. It's not enjoyable. You have to have a budget that makes sense."

John Chan, owner of in Woonsocket, said he’s being hit doubly hard.

“I don’t think we can take any more taxes, whether it’s on food or property,” he said. Woonsocket is facing a possible supplemental property tax increase of 15 percent this year to help close its school budget gap.

“Business has already felt the impact,” said Chan, noting the meals tax in nearby Massachusetts is only 6 percent.

According to Christine Hunsinger, Chafee’s communications director, the additional 2 percent in taxes would be funnelled back to cities and towns through the education funding formula, she said.

“The governor’s been very clear and very committed to the cities and towns this year,” she said. Chafee held a series of municipal strategy sessions with mayors and town managers to discuss how the state could help them. Accelerating the education funding formula — getting more money to those cities and town that had been underfunded in previous years — was something municipalities supported.

“This was one of the suggestions that came out of the meeting with the mayors. The idea of accelerating the funding formula came from the mayors," said Hunsinger. "The governor chose to do that through the meals and beverage tax increase." [Editor's Note: This paragraph has been amended since the story initially posted.]

"I certainly support the acceleration of school funding but I do have serious concerns about imposing that 2 percent,” said Cranston Mayor Allan Fung. "I support the acceleration. For years Cranston has been underfunded. But how you get there? I’m not crazy about the increase of the two percent."

That said, Fung wouldn't say he was absolutely opposed to the increase. "It’s not an easy yes or no," he said. [Editor's note: Mayor Fung's office called this morning (3/22) to clarify his stand on Chafee's proposal. "The mayor unequivocally opposes the 2 percent increase," said Carlos Lopez.]

"It’s not a broad-based tax," argued Hunsinger. "It’s a tax that hits disposable income. Property tax is the most difficult to pay. Those continue to skyrocket at the municipal level.... It’s really pennies on a pizza."

For Wronski in EG, those pennies could make a difference.

"Squeeze another percentage point from the people already reluctant to go out, they'll just decide to stay home," he said.

Todd M March 22, 2012 at 12:29 PM
It's not a tax you are being forced to pay. If you can't afford an extra 2% when dining out, stay home or just to Applebee's get the "2 for $20" and pay the extra 40 cents. Just remember to tip your server appropriately.
Eric Menke March 22, 2012 at 12:34 PM
We need to fund education without a doubt. My concern is that the increased meal tax will result in lost restaurant and hotel business and therefore not bring in the amount hoped for.
Bill Marzahn March 22, 2012 at 12:44 PM
The best way to handle education spending is to regionalize education by county. There is just no way to justify all of those city and town administrators and support staff. The next thing to do is to take the administration of funding out of the hands of the superintendant. These people are not trained how to manage funds. Let them have a sya but not the final one. Bill Coventry
Ted Geisel March 22, 2012 at 12:46 PM
There is no way that they would ever cut the free cell phone program. The program costs the government $1.6 billion a year. That is a ton of cash in the phone carriers pockets. They pay a lot more money than you or I to bribe (lobby) our politicians. http://moneyland.time.com/2012/02/08/how-to-get-the-government-to-cover-your-cell-phone-bills/
Ted Geisel March 22, 2012 at 12:47 PM
What do you people expect? Chaffee didn't come to power in a coup. Neither did anyone else up there. I keep hearing people whine about stuff like this and then elections come around and it's the same people or type of people who get re-elected. What do you think is going to happen in November??? Rhode Island will wake up and stop electing these idiots? Never going to happen. This is what the majority of voting Rhode Islanders want for some reason. They want this "free" service or that. The magic money fairy will come and pay for it all.
Ted Geisel March 22, 2012 at 12:48 PM
I think you are making everyones point when you tell people to stay home. Who is really being hurt there? It's the small business owner, the guy that owns the restaurant. When you people don't go out and eat they don't tip anything...
Bob Dobalina March 22, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Well said mcam! How could they understand the struggles of the (so-called) middle class when they have never been a part of it! Eventually the people who work hard every day to keep their heads above water will lose our homes. And when I lose mine, job or not, I am out of this state! Oh and whoever mentioned (temporary) tax increase earlier. Don't kid yourself, once they get a taste of the $$ generated, they won't let it go. More $$ to put into "general fund" and do as they wish with it.
D sal March 22, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Agree that more working or willing to work people need to get out and vote and let's clean house!
Todd M March 22, 2012 at 01:10 PM
Anonymous: If you can't afford and extra 2% (like some else said, about $1 on an average meal), you probably aren't going out often enough to make that big of an impact on a persons business. I find my self tipping more now than I ever have.
Baywatch March 22, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Hey Todd, It's the principal of the idea that people are not happy about. Spouting off about what other people can or should be able to afford is a pretty arrogant position to hold, aye? I can stick a needle in my finger with little adverse effects, does that mean it's something that I should do, continuously?
NK_Voter March 22, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Agreed. I think you will find those that like the tax think they will benefit from it...pensioners, public sector unions, and the entire cast of social workers and, of course, those they service. It's a vote for the broken status quo. Problem is that it justs kicks the can a few months down the road.
NK_Voter March 22, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Throwing more money at a dysfunctional education system isn't the answer.
Concerned Resident March 22, 2012 at 02:36 PM
.....and as businesses continue to vacate RI where do you think the $$'s will come from. What about those that earn below min wage reliant on tips for their income?
Ted Geisel March 22, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Like the saying goes: "If you're not a part of the solution, there's good money to be made in prolonging the problem."
mcam March 22, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Yes, cut the spending or better yet hire those who are out of work to weed out the fraud in this state!!! I bet Chafee would not have to raise any tax once he got the fraud in control. I know people who get everything free and drive better cars than I do.
mcam March 22, 2012 at 08:16 PM
This is the welfare state we are well known for it. This is not a place where businesses want to come, the taxes are way too high, and Chafee just keeps on hammering them down on us..
ELM March 22, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Don: $50 meal at 10 % = $5. tax. $50 meal at 8% = $4. tax TAX DIFFERENCE $1 NO BIG DEAL! Won't stop me from going out.
Sadie March 22, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Just another way to stick it to the working middle class. Stop funding all these social programs and if the recipients of these programs don't like it let em go somewhere else. There is so much abuse and waste and we just keep giving them more and more.
Michelle March 22, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Absolutely agree with Tucker. The state knows how to spend money, and they will have no problem spending more of "our" money. They just don't know how to spend it correctly.
Michelle March 22, 2012 at 11:10 PM
The school departments could have unlimited funding and that would not help them to educate any better. They need to "test" the teachers and if they are not doing their job correctly, hire teachers that will~~~~at half the salary.
Michelle March 22, 2012 at 11:16 PM
I think education has enough funding. Now the people spending the money need to learn how to budget it. The increase in meal tax will not help~~~it will hurt. People, like me, will just go to CT or MA and that will hurt the state even more. Learn how to budget like the average homeowner has to do or get out of office. And in November, lets try and elect people that have a clue.
Sadie March 22, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Chaffee says he's committed to help fund schools. Ha why doesn't he dig into his own pockets and stay out of ours. He's not funding schools we are!
Steve March 23, 2012 at 12:57 AM
Every Rhode Islander should read the "meals and beverage tax section" in RI tax guidelines. You aren't just paying more at restaurants, you pay every time you get food or a drink in this state, whether at the local ice cream shop, food court, bowling alley snack shop, vending machines, cafeteria, bar, mobile cart, caterer, etc.. It's not just a dollar here and there, IT IS DAILY. And it definitely affects the small businesses in RI that are struggling to make ends meet. People are forced to watch every dime they spend, and this will make it tougher.
Govstench March 23, 2012 at 10:34 AM
Killing an eocnomy (what's left of it) to keep schools going is bad policy. It's time to start managing the schools - take it away from the committees.
Ted Geisel March 23, 2012 at 12:05 PM
"Someday, I hope to be able to afford an iPhone...like the girl in front of me paying for her groceries with food stamps. "
ELM March 23, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Try qualifying for food stamps and then living on them. Not much fun. Maybe the phone was a gift from someone. How the hell do you know?
Rick March 23, 2012 at 05:21 PM
I say we start off by only having 1 school superintendent per county.heck were a real small state and they can travel if needed..having 37 is beyond rediculous..
Concerned Resident March 23, 2012 at 05:29 PM
AN IPHONE????? One would think that the person on food stamps would be better served with something other than an iphone......let's not forget about the monthly service charges.
steve March 23, 2012 at 06:11 PM
There is no leaders in state or towns it very sad.Chafe is a bust.Its a shame
English first March 23, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Wow, the last 14-16 comments got off the subject of meal tax increase. On most issues that are "discussed' on the Woonsocket Patch the subject reverts to the educational system. (Somehow that last sentence doesn't sound grammatical correct.)

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