Rob Cote, organizer of the Warwick Car Tax Revolt, wants legislators to step on the gas and approve the Car Tax Bill, which was discussed by the House Committee on Municipal Government at a Jan. 14 hearing at the State House.
The committee is made up of nearly 15 state representatives and the bill was held for further study, per the recommendation of Representative Jon Brien. Cote said he is hopeful progress is being made.
“It’s disappointing that they don’t look at this with more of a priority,” Cote said during a phone interview yesterday morning. “What further study has been done? Who can quantify it? People need to understand that when things are moved to further study, nothing gets done and then the last day before the session ends they just pass bills. We know there were a few amendments that need to be made so my question is, ‘Have you completed that?’”
Representative Joseph McNamara, who drafted the bill earlier this winter, said it is on hold, as a majority of the bills are. Right now, he said, the main task at hand is reformulating a realistic budget for Rhode Island.
“Anything dealing with any type of finances or anything that will affect cities and towns, will be done after that,” McNamara said in a phone interview yesterday morning.
In fact, McNamara said the fiscal crisis facing Providence and Woonsocket has impacted the car tax issue, as well as the budget.
“Believe it or not, all of these issues affect what people are thinking about,” he said. “In terms of the bill being dead, that’s not the case at all. The bill has a lot of support. I’ve spoken to the members of the committee individually and answered their questions.”
The amendment Cote requested deals with making the bill take effect as soon as it is passed. This way, he said, people won’t be again hit with an “unfair, unjust” tax.
“In July of 2011 when tax bills went out, they were for the fiscal year 2010,” said Cote. “We’re asking that they put in a retroactive date so come July of this year, the tax bill is corrected and people are paying on the actual value of their vehicles.”
Cote also said he has recently sent out nearly 500 e-mails encouraging people to reach out to their state representatives and request this amendment is made to the bill.
If the bill passes, vehicles in Rhode Island would be valued at the NADA’s trade-in or average value, which is lower than the current value, the clean or highest value.
Cote plans to take legal action in Superior Court if the bill is not passed. He said he hasn’t yet taken legal action because he is optimistic the bill will go through.
“In good faith, the legislators have another chance to do the right thing and if they don’t do the right thing, I will definitely file a civil action,” said Cote. “We’re not asking for you to give us back what you took from us in an illegitimate manner; just fix it so we can move forward and do the right thing for the people.”
Brien was contacted by phone and via e-mail for comment but did not correspond by press time.