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Speaker Mattiello Wants to Eliminate the "Taylor Swift Tax"

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House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello wants to eliminate the "Taylor Swift tax" -- Governor Gina Raimondo's proposed statewide property tax on vacation...

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello wants to eliminate the "Taylor Swift tax"  -- Governor Gina Raimondo's proposed statewide property tax on vacation homes worth more than $1 million.

"I'm hoping that the revenues are there to eliminate that," Mattiello said during a taping Thursday of Rhode Island Public Radio's Political Roundtable. "You could look to see that eliminated. I agree with the public sentiment that you don't open the door to a new tax, because it's just going to expand in the future, so that's something that I'm really looking to eliminate."

Mattiello added, "I don't want to speak for her, but I believe the governor concurs with that at this point, and we're doing that collaboratively."

Asked for comment, Raimondo's press secretary, Marie Aberger, said via e-mail, "Once the new revenue estimates come out," at the May revenue estimating conference, " we will evaluate all options and continue working with the Speaker, the Senate President, and the entire General Assembly to enact a plan to expand opportunity and put people back to work."

The tax on second homes worth more than a million dollars has been one of the most controversial elements of Raimondo's budget proposal, drawing brickbats from critics near and far. They say the tax -- so named since pop singer Swift owns a home in Westerly -- creates a slippery slope and sends a bad message about Rhode Island's tax climate.

Raimondo and her key lieutenants have described the tax on second homes, projected to generate about $12 million in revenue, as a way to share responsibility in paying for state needs.

"I think it sends a message about the fairness of the Raimondo administration, about the equitable approach that our team takes to budgeting," Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor said during last week's RIPR Bonus Q+A. "You know, there's a $190 million budget deficit that has to be closed this year. It's escalating to nearly half a billion over the next several years. A number of actions need to be taken in tandem to close that gap. To be sure, one of them is Medicaid reform, but it has to be a balanced effort."

A trend of better than expected revenues continued after Pryor made his remark, allowing the General Assembly more flexibility in considering Raimondo's almost $9 billion budget proposal.

Mattiello called the Taylor Swift tax "something she suggested at a time when the revenues were very scarce and the budget was very tight."

The speaker said he's "generally very supportive" of Raimondo's budget, but plans "to lessen that impact" from $22 million in anticipated savings from unfunded Chafee-era raises for state employees.

"There are things with that that are problematic," Mattiello said. "Furloughs and so forth don't make the state look well. I want us to project a healthy economic outlook and so forth."

Mattiello said he expects Raimondo's package of incentives -- touted by the governor as a way to boost Rhode Island's economy -- "to be very well received by House Finance Committee. However, the governor and myself have already had discussions -- we have to tighten certain things up. It's a good proposal that we're going to look to make better after getting some public input, but I'm working collaboratively with the governor on it. I think overall, the idea is very good. The state needs the tools to incentivize investments in jobs and businesses in the state of Rhode Island."

Speaker Mattiello Wants to Eliminate the
Speaker Mattiello Wants to Eliminate the "Taylor Swift Tax"