A tax on cars is so widely despised in Rhode Island that a powerful politician's promise to eliminate it has overshadowed all the other budget priorities that state leaders are debating this year.
Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello is intent on fulfilling a campaign promise to completely phase out municipal car taxes in five years. He's sparred with Gov. Gina Raimondo, a fellow Democrat who thinks a full repeal is fiscally unsustainable but has proposed a 30 percent cut.
Complaints about the unfairness of the tax have fueled calls for reform.
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But Rhode Island's cities and towns have become so dependent on the $220 million paid to them by car owners each year that any relief proposal would require a major redistribution of money from the state to municipal governments.