Republican candidate Giovanni Feroce said he will cut taxes sharply, try to make Rhode Island a right to work state, and instill a reliance on blockchain technology if he wins election as Rhode Island's next governor.
During a mid-day campaign event in front of a few dozen supporters at the Eleven Forty Nine restaurant in East Greenwich on Tuesday, Feroce spent almost 20 minutes praising the entrepreneurial spirit of George Washington before launching into his policy prescriptions. He said his focus will be on creating prosperity through education, employment and retirement.
Feroce's pledges include eliminating the state personal income tax; lowering the corporate tax to the lowest rate in the nation; implementing building material tax incentives for new construction; providing tuition reimbursement credit for companies; eliminating inventory and asset taxes; and providing moving credits for employees moving to Washington.
Feroce then proposed to make Rhode Island a right to work state. "We work with labor, to create our own model, to be implemented in 2025, going forward," he said. ".... Twenty-eight states now are right to work state. Do we always want to be last? We can't afford to."
While conservatives relish the idea of making Rhode Island a right to work state -- which would prohibit labor-management agreements calling for mandatory union dues -- labor fiercely opposes the concept. In 2014, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung lost support among labor by saying during a WPRI-TV debate that he backed making Rhode Island a right to work state.
But Feroce, 49, who has been the subject of repeated Providence Journal stories about setbacks in his business dealings, pledged to run an unconventional campaign while trying to eclipse fellow Republicans Fung and Patricia Morgan, the minority leader in the Rhode Island House of Representatives.
Republicans will square off in a September 12 primary, ahead of the general election in November.
In one sign of how his approach will be different from standard Rhode Island politics, Feroce touted blockchain -- a digital ledger thought to be immune from hacking -- as a technology that will make government more efficient while making the Ocean State a more prosperous neighbor of Massachusetts.
“Rhode Island can benefit both directly and indirectly from blockchain technology immediately and over the long term," Feroce said. "Our state can become a national leader not just in blockchain utilization but also in educational and technological aspects that directly positively impact our socioeconomic conditions.”
Feroce said efficiencies created by blockchain would help pay for his envisioned tax cuts.
"If you look at how many jobs are in place just to create revenue, just for transactional activity – from getting a title for a car to the issuance of a license, to move transcripts from one institution to another," he said. "That reduction in what’s required to fund the government is a huge amount of money."
Feroce grew up in West Warwick and went on to serve as a state senator. He served as CEO of Alex and Ani as the company enjoyed a meteoric rise, before later being ousted. As the ProJo has reported, he bought BENRUS, a military-style watch company and vowed to make it a successful brand, but the company ran short of capital. His former mansion in Newport was the subject of a foreclosure auction.
Feroce downplayed these issues, calling them part of the ups and downs of being in business He insisted his background -- as a graduate of an advanced management program at Wharton, a military veteran of the Persian Gulf War, and a business executive -- makes him uniquely qualified to be governor.
"Mine is a campaign of ideas," he said. If I am to be challenged, let the challenges come in the form of reasonable arguments against those ideas. I shall accept all such opposition with respect and grace. Let the people decide who among the candidates for governor possess the powers of mind, heart, experience and conscience required to fix what is wrong with Rhode Island -- and create what is right for the next 50 years and beyond."
Feroce is a divorced father of five who lives in Newport.
Feroce likened himself to "true and good leaders [who] came to us at brilliant dawns following long dark nights of the soul. I am uniquely qualified to lead the war against the old ways and old systems that must be won in order to transform Rhode Island."
Speaking with reporters after his presentation, Feroce declined to say how much money he thinks is necessary to run a competitive race. He said he believes he's starting in third place in the GOP primary, behind Morgan and Fung, and will spend accordingly as he tries to gain ground.