GoLocalProv News Team and Kate Nagle
The Rhode Island General Assembly convened on Tuesday for the start of the 2017 session, as 75 members of the House of Representatives and the 38 members of the Senate were sworn into office — with 12 new Representatives and four new Senators.
From marijuana legalization to binding arbitration (the NEA’s Bob Walsh in favor, Ken Block opposed) and line-item veto among a number of issues potentially facing the General Assembly, GoLocal caught up with elected officials and advocacy organizations to see what their top priorities are, as the state faces a projected $112 million budget deficit this year.
Economic Progress Institute
Our 2017 legislative priorities again focus on improving economic opportunity for working families. We will be advocating for further increasing the Rhode Island Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from its current 15% of the federal credit up to 20%. This would allow over 80,000 working Rhode Islanders to keep more of their paycheck and would put us more in line with our neighboring states which have higher state EITCs (CT is 27.5% and MA is 23%).
We’ll also be advocating for increasing the minimum wage which remains at $9.60 while Connecticut’s has increased to $10.10 and Massachusetts is now at $11.00. Combining a higher minimum wage with a higher EITC has been shown to be very effective at helping improve the economic security of lower income families.
Another priority is to improve the child care assistance program to allow more parents to have access to quality care for their children while they are working and to create tiered reimbursement rates for child care providers so that providers who are providing higher quality care are adequately reimbursed.
Finally, we’ll be keeping an eye on Congress and working to ensure that Rhode Island maintains affordable, quality health care for the quarter of a million residents who benefit from the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid and Medicare, as well as a strong safety net for families, people with disabilities, and seniors, regardless of federal changes.