Ken Block Today, Rhode Island is in Crisis. We are in peril

Today, Rhode Island is the leading member of the “National Hall of Shame”. We are number one in the nation in unemployment and near dead last in the business environment that is so essential for creating and keeping jobs.
The evidence of our peril is clear; major office buildings like the famous “Superman” building vacant; empty store fronts from Woonsocket to Westerly; our children and grandchildren unable to stay here because they must leave to find jobs; retirees unable to stay in Rhode Island because of broken promises and oppressive taxes; and jobs evaporating like Toray Plastics, who is adding new jobs…up to 500, but not here, in another state. The wreckage of our state’s failed leadership is visible, tangible and it is growing.
Time for an entrepreneur
I am known as an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are not satisfied with the status quo. They ask how something can be done better. Entrepreneurs see opportunities where others see problems. I am also an engineer; not the most exciting of professions, but engineers make things work. They fix things.
I see an opportunity in Rhode Island’s crisis. To fix it, and make it work again. We need an Entrepreneur Governor who sees this crisis as an opportunity to lead the fundamental changes necessary to fix Rhode Island; to apply solutions to our state’s problems that are proven to work and already have in other states; and to bring common sense back to a government that has lost every shred of common sense.
The election of the next Governor is not about filling a position or electing a popular person. This election is about bringing the fundamental change needed to save our state and turn it around so we can once again take pride in our state. This election is a clear referendum; whether we preserve the failed status quo or whether we fix what is so badly broken in our state?
“The who you know state”
Do we continue sliding to the edge of the fiscal cliff, merely hoping without real change and strong leadership, that we will somehow avoid the fate of Detroit? How long can we believe the broken promises and hollow assurances? Do we continue to pay for a hugely inefficient and expensive government? Do we continue to accept the failed status quo?
Are we ready to say “No”?

Are we ready to say “No” to 38-Studios-Style mis-management?
Are we ready to apply the hard-earned lesson that leadership and trust matter most?
Are we ready to understand that substance is more important than electing personalities and career politicians, who sound good, buy fancy commercials to look good, but lack the know-how, lack a plan and lack the backbone to tell the truth and make the tough decisions?
Are we ready to take bold action to move out of the Hall of Shame?
Ladies and gentleman, are we ready to change from the “Who you know state” to the “What we have achieved state”?
My answer is YES! Yes, we are all ready. Yes, I am ready.
All of my life I have been fixing things. It is what I do.
Together, we will fix RI, the right way!
Here is how. Let me outline some of the key elements of The Block Plan.

How we fix Rhode Island: Focus on the top priorities.
Fixing Rhode Island starts with building our state’s economy! Fix this, and jobs and other good things follow.
 Make taxes fair and competitive: Rebuild our economy & jobs
 Improve government efficiencies: Lower costs & improve services
 Fix the way your government does business: Rebuild fairness & trust
Together, these tax reforms, improvements and costs savings will put approximately $1000 per year back in the pockets of many dual income, Rhode Island families.
Reduce the car tax
First, we will help put more money back into the pockets of Rhode Island taxpayers by dropping the hated car tax by 1/3. We will do this by increasing the car tax exemption, which is currently set at $500.
We will use this change to accelerate more effective cost sharing among our 39 municipalities. We will use state aid to create an incentive for municipalities to find cost savings (through shared services with other municipalities) and use this combination of funding to decrease the car tax on Rhode Islanders. This will include creating a new formula for car tax reimbursement to municipalities. Each municipality will submit a bill for the revenue lost as a result of the exemption. The state will provide state aid equal to 2/3rds of the lost revenue, provided that the municipality identifies the other 1/3rd through cost savings achieved by shared services such as:
shared tax collection services, shared public safety dispatch services, and coordinated procurement of services/goods. Total state aid through the program will not exceed $50 million
Help create new jobs and keep them here: Reduce the corporate tax rate
We will reduce the corporate tax rate from 9% to 7%. This change will make us a competitive choice for new businesses again and will create over time a net increase in corporate taxes by building our tax base. Rhode Island should be the best place to start a business, not the worst. New businesses mean new jobs, and higher paying jobs.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, calls the corporate tax the most harmful type of tax for economic growth. We must lower ours. A state like Michigan is a great

example of the potential for growth and change. Like Rhode Island, Michigan was also in the “Hall of Shame”, high unemployment and high corporate taxes. In 2012, Michigan cut $1.7 billion in business taxes, and in 2013, Michigan added over 65,000 jobs to its economy. If Michigan can move from 49th to 7th in the country for its corporate tax reform, so can Rhode Island.
Promote new businesses: Eliminate the minimum corporate tax for new businesses
We will eliminate the $500 minimum corporate tax for new companies in their first two years of existence. We need to promote entrepreneurship in Rhode Island, and we need to help these new companies preserve their capital when they need it most. This change would only apply to businesses that employ individuals, and would not apply to entities created for real estate purposes.
Help family owned businesses and families: Reduce and reform the death tax
We need to help family owned businesses grow into the next generation without the oppressive death tax. We must help our seniors stay here instead of fleeing to Florida, leaving their families and grandchildren behind because they cannot afford to stay. Why should we have one of the worst estate taxes in New England?
We will fix this by increasing the threshold for the death tax to $2.5 million, and reduce the top rate to 12%. This will help our state become a place that is a more attractive place to retire, to stay and to prosper across generations of family owned business owners.
Test a lower sales tax: Establish a test reduced sales tax zone in a border town.
We need to test lowering our sales tax to make Rhode Island an attractive retail destination and to help our state’s retail businesses. Let’s do it in a town on our border. Let’s take positive and business like action to find the right solution.

Improve government efficiencies: Put the savings into tax relief and investments to lower costs and improve services.
The numbers never lie; our current government simply costs too much because it operates inefficiently. States like New Jersey with a much larger population runs the same program as Rhode Island yet they do it at a fraction of the cost. Projects like the streamlining of our Department of Motor Vehicles has taken years, is off track and off budget with our citizens not only paying the bill, but waiting in line too! Our State employees still fill out paper time cards! These are just some of the opportunities for improved operations and efficiency.
Efficient government is a lower cost government. Efficient government means lower fees and lower taxes.
Many Rhode Islanders have investments in successful companies. These companies are successful because they invest in innovation and technology to cut costs, drive efficiencies and create higher paying jobs; so can we! Many of us have cell phones and household appliances and electronics. Most of these have increasingly become more powerful and have made us personally more efficient. How can we run our state on a 1950’s mindset with 1980’s technology and hope to be a 21st century state? If you had a choice, and Rhode Island were a company, would you invest in it?
I have been talking about saving $1 billion. Frankly, that is just a start. Under my leadership our state agencies will implement cost reducing initiatives that will make their jobs easier and improve service to our citizens.
We will fix our broken TDI program. When we do this, we will cut the cost of this program in half, bringing our costs in line with New Jersey’s TDI program. When we do this, we will put $80 million back into our economy every year, as much as $400 for every worker who pays this unfair tax right out of their paychecks.
We will fix our broken unemployment insurance program: The worst ranked program in the US. We will apply fixes that other states have already made, and when we do we will fix one of the most fundamentally unfair taxes that exists in RI. We will fix one of the primary drivers that keeps Rhode Island mired at the bottom of the economic rankings.
We will fix the DMV, fixing a project with a decade-overdue computer upgrade that is radically over budget.
Know-How and no political debts

Ladies and Gentlemen, I know every politician promises to get rid of waste and abuse in government, but few actually deliver.
Politicians usually do not deliver because they do not know what to do, how to do it and, most troubling, they “owe” too many political debts that make change nearly impossible. Just look at Rhode Island government and the number of family members and friends with government paid or funded jobs. The fact is we need to change the way our government operates, and soon. I can and I will provide the leadership and expertise to make these critical improvements.
My professional career has been devoted to helping governments identify where money is being wasted or stolen in their social service spending programs. My team saved the state of Texas more than a billion dollars just in their Food Stamp program alone. I will do this for Rhode Island. I know how. I am not compromised because I do not owe any secret political debts.
Fix the way your government does business
Citizens must trust their government and their leaders. Today, they do not.
This lack of trust is corrosive and dangerous. We must fix it now. We must re-establish fair decision making, based on facts and merit, and reject forever secret, back door deal making. We can rebuild trust by electing a leader who will renounce “Cronies and Connections as usual”; a leader who will reject behind-the-curtain mis-management that has delivered so many bad deals. We need not look any further than 38 Studios to know how much this kind of deal making can cost us. And more recently we see back-room deal making shutting out not only public view, but taxpayer interests.
As your Governor, I will ensure the financial commitments we make benefit all interests; not just the special interests. Today, the policies promoted by career politicians running our state and some of our cities are too often based on short term political interests; not long term value to the taxpayers.
The Master Lever, No Line Item Veto, and the Phony Ethics Commission; this is the “toolkit” of pilfering, pandering politicians! These tools ensure limited accountability and transparency. These tools of deception allow back office deal making, budgets that are not read or understood but passed in a matter of days and single party domination.
We can no longer afford the “Who you know state”. We can no longer afford the “Hall of Shame”.

I will lead the change required to establish a Line-Item Veto for the Governor. Just like 44 other states, we need to balance the power of our branches of government, and specifically allow for fiscal oversight.
I will continue to lead the building momentum to eliminate the Master Lever. Last year, more than 3,000 individuals petitioned the General Assembly to make this change, with a majority of Representatives and 18 Senators agreeing that the Lever has to go.
I will lead the re-empowering the Ethics Commission. Ethics are not optional. A Government without ethics is a government at-risk of undue influence by special interests, and at its worst, a government ripe for corruption. Ethics without meaningful oversight and consequences is government run amuck; just like ours.
I will lead the effort to get these critical reforms done by taking the lead and driving the Constitutional Convention process. This opportunity is already part of our law and already on the ballot. It just takes principled leadership and an active and engaged citizenry to make it a reality.
I will restore trust in our state’s leadership and its institutions. Open, transparent and thoughtful leadership will save money because it will prevent bad deals and it will rebuild confidence and trust. Confidence and trust in government builds the climate businesses can count on. This creates jobs.
Fixing Rhode Island is not optional. This is a unique opportunity to change course. This is a critical time to send a message that your voice counts, and that your vote matters. Our current crisis was created over generations of political calculation over practical rationale. Career politicians lack the objectivity and business experience; they are seasoned in the past practices of trading our future for political gain.
We’ve learned nationally and locally, it is not about speeches, spin and rhetoric. Moving Rhode Island forward is about know-how and hands-on hard work. The Block Plan can put approximately $1000 per year back in the pockets of many dual income Rhode Island families, exactly at a time they need it most.
Bold, specific plans are always questioned, but bold and specific plans are the foundation of positive action. Now is the time for bold action.
We can fix this, together.

Let’s fix Rhode Island.
Ladies and gentleman, less than one year from now, the newly elected Governor will be starting their administration.
The question each of us must ask and answer this November is;
Will your new Governor continue business as usual?
Will your new Governor win the office by promising special things to special friends?
Will your new Governor know how and where to fix the way government works?
Will your new Governor lead positive change; Work with the legislature to govern, not rubber-stamp?
Will your new Governor demonstrate rock solid character and open and fair decision making?
And, will your new Governor tell the truth and have the courage to make the hard decisions?
Ladies and gentleman, your new Governor must do these things.
With your support, as your new Governor I will do all this and more.
It’s time to trust our government again.
It is time to get government working for all of us.
With your support, we can fix Rhode Island!
I need your help.
I ask for your vote.
Thank you.