Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Providence Mayor Goes Off The Deep End

The mayor of Providence is trying to pass a law that would tax every private college student in Providence $300 per semester. He estimates it would bring in about $6-$8 million annually, and would greatly reduce the city's looming deficit.

While I'm all for unique solutions to solving budget issues and deficits, taxing students for attending college is not one of them. Why would they choose to go to Providence College or The Rhode Island School of Design, two prominent private colleges that would be taxed under his plan, when they could go to The University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, The University of Connecticut, or Bridgewater State College for less money, and without having to be taxed.

His plan is one that is not forward-thinking. There is far too much assumption inherent in his argument. He assumes students will still pour in in droves to attend the already pricy, cash-strapped and too-small private college of Providence, and that in the future only more students will come. What he is doing is essentially setting up a divide between the public and the private universities in the city and offering prospective and current students the opportunity to save at least $600 a year by going to another university. While $600 doesn't seem like a lot, it does pay for books for the entire year (and possibly a bit of the next), and is the approximate cost of 2 courses at Bristol Community College.

If anything, the plan will shrink enrollment and offer up colleges a new set a problems. And while the city may inheret some money, they will be shelling out plenty of it in the years to come when all the institutions and its students begin trying to sue the city. As a result of this, I fear that the tax-exempt status of these institutions will begin to be stripped, and the price will only skyrocket further.

Providence needs to invest in some new initiatives, mainly high-speed rail lines extending into Connecticut and Massachusetts, new fuel technologies, and plenty of oceanography (they are the Ocean State after all). It might cost a bit more now, but within a few years it's going to pay off tenfold. And if they show the plans to the Obama administration, they will surely receive a sizeable grant amount and possibly more stimulus funds as they are trying to promote green technology, science, math, and will be creating plenty of new jobs.

Don't tax the few who still have jobs or are attending school. Make more jobs and collect the addition taxes needed from those who pay income and state taxes on their salaries.

Am I the only one saying, "Duh!" ?

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