When it comes to Gov. Chafee's proposal to increase the restaurant tax from 8 percent to 10 percent, restaurant owners and residents in Rhode Island have strong feelings.
“This is a second restaurant tax,” said Matt Wronski, owner of Tio Mateo’s and Greenwich Bay Gourmet 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."
According to Christine Hunsinger, Chafee’s communications director, the idea for the tax came from the cities and towns themselves.
“This was one of the suggestions that came out of the meeting with the mayors,” she said, referring to a series of municipal strategy sessions Chafee held with mayors and town managers. “Ideas were talked about and discussed — this was one of those suggestions.”
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.”
“If the implication is that the mayors proposed a 2 percent tax, that is not accurate,” said Cranston Mayor Allan Fung. “I’m not sure I would phrase it that we proposed the 2 percent tax. I came from a small business background and a restaurant background. I certainly support the acceleration of school funding but I do have serious concerns about imposing that 2 percent.”
That said, Fung wouldn't say he was absolutely opposed to the proposal. "It’s not an easy yes or no," he said.
"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.
On Facebook, we asked local residents what they thought of the tax increase. Here's what they had to say.
Elizabeth Barrett: Ridiculous! I've already filled 3 pages of names & signatures against this ridiculous increase.
Suzie Patterson: I'm OK with it, just hope it doesn't hurt the restaurants.
Betty Mulligan: I think it is a very bad idea, especially for small restaurants, of which there are hundreds in RI. I believe it would be a very poor economic move for RI in a time when jobs are so desperately needed, putting more strain on small restaurants or larger ones that employ more people, will not help Rhode Islanders!
Terry Longo Coffey: Just terrible we pay so much in taxes already to increase a food tax and gas prices the way they are are we not to drive or eat!!!! INSANE
Anna Tamborelli Rainone: Not only will it hurt us, it definitely will hurt the restaurants. There is very little that we are able to do any longer due to all the increases in our lives because of the economy. Now looks like eating out will be next to cross of our list of things to do.
Lisa Medeiros: In the end its going to hurt the wait staff, the tax that they are adding will only come out of their tips, cause no one gets that they only make 2.89 and hour and live off the tips,
What do you think about the proposed increase? Tell us in the poll and the comments section!