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The following Op-Ed was written by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown), Deputy Majority Leader.
Small business is the lifeblood of Rhode Island economy. We have over 95,000 small businesses, and they employ our friends and families. Their success directly impacts the livelihoods of those families as well as our state’s economy in payroll taxes and business taxes to the state.
As consumers, we have the power to support these local businesses and buy local so they survive. That is just one of the reasons I introduced legislation to create a sales tax holiday on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016 (2016-H 7010).
The timing of the holiday is very intentional: In addition to being the weekend of Victory Day — a holiday unique to Rhode Island — I selected this date to keep Rhode Island shoppers’ dollars in Rhode Island. Let’s support the Main Street economy from Broad Street in Providence, to Main Street in Wickford, to Thames Street in Newport. And let’s welcome our Massachusetts neighbors to cross the border for a tax-free day of shopping.
Sales tax holidays are enticing, providing consumers who have been considering making a big purchase such as a new energy-efficient appliance or a computer with a good reason to open their wallets. Currently, 14 states have scheduled at least one tax holiday this year to boost consumer spending and generate business for local retailers. Massachusetts offers a tax-free weekend and has done so for years.
The advantage to Rhode Islanders is obvious: Shoppers can save money, particularly at a time when many need to start their back-to-school shopping. And they can do it without having to drive to Massachusetts. They can keep their money in the local economy, and hopefully they will consider the many benefits of shopping at small businesses, which support their neighbors and communities.
For the state, there are residual benefits of a tax holiday. Once you buy that new computer, you’ll need a printer and you’ll be buying print cartridges for many months in the future, all with a 7-percent sales tax.
So, visit our beaches on Aug. 6, enjoy the fresh seafood, but don’t forget to buy those artisan crafts, Ocean State souvenirs, and maybe even a new kitchen appliance or computer! A Rhode Island tax-free holiday should boost retail sales, build consumer confidence, and be a VICTORY for our local economies.