Republican gubernatorial candidate Allan Fung unveiled a proposal Wednesday to lower the sales tax in Rhode Island, reduce fees, and introduce a business concierge program.
Fung's initiative comes one day after another GOP candidate, Giovanni Feroce, offered his own platform for sharply cutting taxes and using new technology in an effort to improve the state's economy.
On the sales tax, Fung proposes cutting it to 5 percent or the lowest rate in New England (other than New Hampshire, which doesn't have a sales tax), over four years. The expected cost to state revenue is a total of $280 million, or $70 million a year.
"Let's keep Rhode Islanders shopping in Rhode Island," Fung said in a statement, "I want to see East Providence and Cumberland with as much economic development as Seekonk and Attleboro."
Besides Fung and Feroce, RI House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan is also running for governor as a Republican. The field will be narrowed through a primary in September.
Fung, the mayor of Cranston, also vowed to review "every single occupational licensing, permitting, and business incorporation fee we charge, and make them the lowest in New England! And in order to make it easier for startups, we will waive all fees for their first year in business."
The Cranston mayor told WPRO that his administration would get a handle on the cost of lowering fees after the November election.
Fung pointed to how Rhode Island charges $230 to file articles of incorporation and said the comparable fee is $100 in New Hampshire and $145 in Maine. An auto body permit repair shop permit costs $900 in Rhode Island and half that much in Massachusetts, he said, adding, "All this does is foster stronger border towns in Massachusetts at the expense of Rhode Island businesses."
Fung's release does not address how he would pay for his initiatives. His campaign did not respond to a question about that.
Morgan responded with a news release accusing Fung of "finding tax religion in a campaign year."
"Allan Fung has clearly done a poll to determine what he believes in," Morgan said. "His 'plan' is just flashy talking points without a realistic or authenticate plan to achieve it ... Fung's plan is just more of the same failed Raimondo ideas and style of leadership that Rhode Islanders are soundly rejecting."
In a statement, the Democratic Governors Association said Fung's administration has repeatedly raised taxes.
Fung said he's trying to change the state's perception.
"I want businesses to be able to say, 'Hey look, Rhode Island is cleaning up it's act and not trying to stick it to us at every turn.' " he said. "That type of attitude and culture is created when you do the little things right."
Fung explained his business concierge proposal this way: "The Concierge Center is a one stop location for startups and business owners, walking them through the process from business plan to ribbon cut as quickly and as stress free as possible. A business owner will be working with the same economic development professional from start to finish - helping them cut through red tape and letting them know what they need to do right from the start, instead of running into time consuming road blocks because one department isn't talking to another."
Fung lost the 2014 race for governor to Democrat Gina Raimondo, by about four percentage points.
This post has been updated.