The Democratic primary for Rhode Island State Senate District 31 will see Matt LaMountain, an endorsed Democrat and former prosecutor in the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office, go …
The Democratic primary for Rhode Island State Senate District 31 will see Matt LaMountain, an endorsed Democrat and former prosecutor in the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office, go head-to-head with Harrison Tuttle, a member of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative. LaMountain said he and Tuttle have similar views when it comes to “ardently supporting reproductive rights for women, tougher gun laws, and combating Climate Change,” but he expressed a major difference between the two in a recent mailer to voters describing what he calls the “Tuttle Tax.”
He identifies the “Tuttle Tax” as a 10% property tax on Rhode Island businesses. In an email exchange he wrote, “This proposal has come straight out of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative, of which [Tuttle] is a dues-paying member. It has been featured in a number of articles and opinion pieces, and trumpeted and supported by Co-op members on social media.”
LaMountain’s mailer depicts a shopper looking at a grocery receipt with dismay and it urges voters to “reject Harrison Tuttle and his radical policies on September 13th.” The flier reads, “we must bear in mind that this is not a tax on profits; it's a property tax. Take Iggy's for example. They would face a $165k property tax increase. That seems like a pretty devastating increase.”
Tuttle fervently denies LaMountain’s claims.
“The statement that I support a 10% tax on small business is absolutely false. This has never been a part of my platform and I’m opposed to raising taxes on mom-and-pop shops.”
But taxes are part of the co-op platform.
“We have to restructure our tax code to give small businesses a break while making sure large corporations pay their fair share in taxes,” Harrison said.
The Co-op’s Twitter account and the accounts of other candidates such as House District 21 Candidate Capri Catanzaro also deny that a 10% property tax on small businesses is part of their platform. Capri Catanzaro’s Twitter page stated on August 30th that “Capri Catanzaro wants to lower taxes on small business” and the Rhode Island Political Cooperative’s page retweeted on August 27th that “a new 10% property tax on small businesses is NOT part of the platform.”
In a telephone interview, Co-op co-founder District 30 Senator Jeanine Calkin said lowering taxes on small businesses has been a consistent part of the Co-op platform and that somehow it was misconstrued as a tax on small businesses. Co-founder Jennifer Rourke, who is running in Senate District 29, likewise denies a tax on small business is part of the platform.
She said that claims of a 10% property tax on small businesses were embellished from an op-ed written by Senate District 4 Candidate and Co-op member Lenny Cioe. He proposed raising taxes on large multinational corporations.
Looking to lower, not raise tax on small business
“We want to change the tax bracket for small businesses. Right now, they are paying just north of 7% and cutting that in half would be substantial for small businesses,” she said.
LaMountain rebutted Rourke’s claims using the same Lenny Cioe op-ed as evidence. In this op-ed, Lenny Cioe introduces what he calls “The Small Business Tax Elimination Act.” Cioe writes that this act will “…eliminate all state taxes for businesses making under $7 million in revenue each year, while also increasing property tax on all businesses with over $7 million in revenue.”
A legislative proposal posted on Lenny Cioe’s website and then deleted, identified small business as a business with average gross revenue over the previous three fiscal years, that is less than seven million dollars and a large business with average gross revenue over the previous three fiscal years that is more than seven million dollars. LaMountain says many Warwick businesses would be affected by this tax.
“While the intent of the bill may have been to tax larger corporations, it was so ill-conceived that it ends up taxing many local businesses like Dave's Marketplace, Job Lot, Iggy's Doughboys, a number of local liquor stores, auto repair shops, car dealerships, and even bakeries.”
Tuttle went to the offensive.
“This is typical election politics. It shows exactly what’s wrong with our system: spreading false information and polluting voters’ minds with these falsehoods.” Despite Tuttle’s assertions, LaMountain continues to point towards the deleted legislation proposal from Lenny Cioe’s website as evidence that Tuttle and the Rhode Island Political Cooperative support a 10% property tax on Warwick small businesses. LaMountain countered, “Harrison Tuttle is desperately trying to distance himself from the RI Political Cooperative and its radical policies
LaMountain said many Warwick businesses face dire circumstances in the aftermath of COVID-19 and emphasized the negative impact of increased property taxes.
“[Warwick businesses] are dealing with a lot on the heels of COVID-19 - rampant inflation, supply chain issues, and a workforce shortage. Proposing a tax increase is precisely the wrong thing to do.”
In LaMountain’s proposed ways to help Warwick’s small businesses .
“I believe in progressive taxation. We should look at raising revenue by taxing only the wealthiest Rhode Islanders – not hammering local businesses with a devastating tax that will force them to either close or raise prices on consumers.”
Tittle said, “When the establishment feels so threatened by a candidate of color that they resort to flat out lies to try to get ahead, we know we have a serious problem to solve. We need to elect people who go against their grain. That’s the type of candidate I pride myself on being and I’ll carry that same community pride, and anti-establishment feel as your next State Senator.”
Rourke said LaMountain’s “Tuttle Tax” mailer as well as the mailer of her rival in Senate District 29 show that “the political establishment Democrats are afraid of change. They want to maintain the status quo.”
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