- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

CRANSTON, R.I. (AP) - Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Block proposed an ambitious series of tax cuts and government reforms Tuesday that he said would boost Rhode Island’s economy while addressing years of political inaction.

The businessman and founder of the state’s Moderate Party called for cutting local taxes on automobiles, reducing the corporate income tax rate from 9 to 7 percent and lowering estate taxes. He also said that if elected, he’d call for less spending on unemployment and temporary disability benefits.

In addition, Block said the state should eliminate straight-ticket voting, give the governor line-item veto power and grant the state’s ethics commission more oversight over state lawmakers.

The platform is the most ambitious yet from those running to replace Gov. Lincoln Chafee, but it would face tough obstacles in the overwhelmingly Democratic General Assembly, where similar proposals have repeatedly fallen flat.

Legislative inaction is a big part of the problem, Block said Tuesday at Cranston-based manufacturer Taco Inc., where he detailed his proposals.

“Rhode Island is in peril,” Block said. “Rhode Island is in economic crisis and yet our elected leaders do not show us that they recognize this urgency. Rhode Island is in the national hall of shame.”

Block faces Cranston Mayor Allan Fung in the GOP primary. Democratic candidates include Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Clay Pell, a Coast Guard officer and former White House staffer who is the grandson of the late U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell.

Block sharply criticized state leaders and touted his background as an entrepreneur during Tuesday’s press conference, which amounted to an informal campaign kick-off. He criticized other candidates for not offering specifics, blasted state economic development efforts and said that when he thinks about the state’s educational system he pictures “an amputated arm… gushing blood.”

“All my life I’ve fixed things,” Block said. “It’s what I do.”

Running as a Moderate in the 2010 governor’s race, Block won 6.5 percent of the vote and finishing fourth behind the Republican, the Democrat and then-independent Lincoln Chafee, who won. Chafee is now a Democrat and not seeking a second term.