Restaurants dump tea in tax protest

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A group of local restaurateurs made a splash, literally, in an effort against Gov. Lincoln Chafee's plan to raise the state meals tax to 10 percent.

The Rhode Island Hospitality Association and state Tea Party representatives gathered at Waterplace Basin Wednesday afternoon to stage their own tea party.

"Spill the tea! Spill the tea!" onlookers started crying once opening remarks were finished, and a man dressed as a 1770's patriot hauled a barrel containing a giant teabag to the river's edge.

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The event was an homage to the original Boston Tea Party in 1773, where colonists chose to destroy boxes of tea by dumping them overboard into Boston Harbor, rather than condone a tax on it from British officials whom they hadn't elected.

"Every Rhode Islander benefits from a vibrant hospitality and tourism industry," the association said in a release prior to the event. "By making this sector less competitive, every Rhode Island resident will be hurt."

Right now, the tax on a meal out is a seven percent sales tax, plus a one percent tax that goes to the municipality where the restaurant is located. Going to 10 percent would make Rhode Island's meal tax one of the highest in the country.

Chafee has said he would rather not raise taxes at all, but the estimated $40 million in revenue brought in from doing so would be dedicated for local public schools.

The Earth-conscious Rhode Island need not worry about the protest.  The teabag thrown into the water was environmentally sound, and approved by the state Department of Environmental Management.

Once the the bag was dunked, the image and message was recorded for posterity, the teabag was fished out.

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Rhode Island (change)

Gov. Lincoln Chafee, the first independent in his position, has his work cut out for him: fix the state's finances and help 66,000 unemployed Rhode Islanders get back to work.
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Governor: Lincoln Chafee
Lieutenant Governor: Elizabeth Roberts
Attorney General: Peter Kilmartin
State Treasurer: Gina Raimondo
Secretary of State: Ralph Mollis

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