Legislative Testimony

Throughout the legislative session, the Economic Progress Institute tracks the budget and other bills being considered by the Rhode Island General Assembly affecting the economic well-being of low- and modest-income Rhode Islanders. We present policy information and data-based testimony to committees in the General Assembly.

2018 Legislative Testimony

Testimony on House Bill 7528 / Senate Bill 2301 (Housing Discrimination Based on Source of Income)
The Institute supports House Bill 7528 and Senate Bill 2301 which would prohibit discrimination in housing based on a person’s receipt of a lawful source of income. Discrimination based on source of income is as harmful to families and individuals and to our public well-being as is discrimination based on race, religion, marital status and other statuses that are protected by Rhode Island’s Fair Housing law. 

Testimony on Governor’s Budget Article 13 and 14 (Medicaid)
The Protect Our Health care Coalition testified in the Senate Finance Committee in opposition to sections in Article 13 (co-payments for Medicaid) and 14 (Proposed rebalancing of long-term care) of the Governor’s budget. The Coalition is opposed to the requirement of copayments for vital health services because they will cause financial hardship and likely adverse health outcomes for over 150,000 adults, including parents, pregnant women, single adults and seniors who will be subject to these payments. As for the “rebalancing” of ling-term care, Rhode Island has a long-standing goal of “rebalancing” long-term care by making more investments in quality community based services that help people live at home. But at least two proposals in the proposed budget would be a step backward on the road to achieve this goal.

Testimony on Governor’s Budget Article 11  (Workforce)
The Institute’s Linda Katz delivered testimony on behalf of the RI Workforce Alliance on Article 11 of the Governor’s budget which would put the Governor’s Real Jobs Rhode Island Program into state law and proposed changes to the State Work Immersion Program. The Alliance suggests also added the Real pathways program into state law to ensure that the organization of the workforce development system around industry partnerships includes a commitment of resources and strategies to address the needs of lower-skilled adults.

Testimony on Governor’s Budget Article 12 (Economic Development)
The Institute submitted written testimony in opposition to sections of Article 12 of the Governor’s budget which would continue to expand the number and range of economic incentive tax credits and remove the sunset’s provisions to these tax incentives which are set to expire on December 31, 2018. The institute also supports the provision in the budget article that would require Commerce RI to assess the “performance, effectiveness, and economic impact of” most of the Governor’s economic development incentives but we have concerns about this report and the still due Tax Incentive Evaluation Act of 2013 report.

Testimony on Senate Bill 2244, 2247 (Minimum Wage)
The Institute supports Senate Bill 2244, which gradually increases the hourly minimum wage to $15.00/hour (in January 2022), and increases the tipped minimum wage to $15.00/hour (in January 2026), and Senate Bill 2247 increasing the minimum wage to $11.00 in 2019 and to $12.00 in 2020. 

Testimony on Senate Bill 2476, 2244 (Tipped Minimum Wage)
The  Institute supports Senate Bill 2476 to increase the tipped minimum wage from $3.89/hour to $9.00/hour on January 1, 2022 (and eliminate it entirely starting January 1, 2023) and the provisions in Senate Bill 2244 increasing the minimum wage for tipped workers from $3.89/hour to $15.00/hour on January 1, 2026).  

Testimony on Budget Article 13, Sec, 1 and 3 (Copayments and RIte Share)
The Institute is opposed to the proposal to require low-income Medicaid beneficiaries to pay co-pays for certain services. The Institute also has objections to some of the proposed changes to the RIte Share program.

Testimony on Senate Bill 2270 / House Bill 7385 (Foreclosure Mediation Act)
The Institute supports passage of Senate Bill 2270 and House Bill 7385 which would remove the sunset provision on the Foreclosure Mediation Act. The General Assembly wisely enacted the Foreclosure Mediation Act in 2013 in response to the frightening number of foreclosures in our state during and post-recession to ensure that homeowners had the opportunity to keep their homes, if possible. Since passage of the Act, 70% of homeowners who participated in the mediation process were able to avoid foreclosure.

Testimony on Senate Bill 2638/2375 (Equal Pay)
The Institute supports passage of Senate Bill 2638 which would require employers of 100 or more employees to report—by gender, race, ethnicity, and job category—information on compensation and hours worked, and Senate Bill 2475, a bill that provides protections against employer imposed wage differentials based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, age, or country of origin. 

Testimony on Budget Article 15 (Child Care Assistance)
The Institute supports Article 15 of the Governor’s budget which would invest $1.5 million to create a tiered reimbursement rate structure based on quality and creating a pilot program allowing parents enrolled in post-secondary education to access child care assistance.

Testimony on House Bill 7544Senate Bill 2470 (Paid Leave)
The Institute supports passage of House Bill 7544/Senate Bill 2470 which would expand access to Rhode Island’s paid family leave program for hard-working, low-income Rhode Islanders. This bill would:
• Increase the number of weeks a worker can use from four to six weeks in 2019 (and up to eight weeks in 2020)
• Expand the category of qualifying family members to include grandchildren and siblings
• Increase the amount workers can receive when they claim TCI

Testimony on House Bill 7799 (Workforce)
The Institute supports passage of House Bill 7799 which would provide an opportunity for employees affected by plant closings or mass layoffs to furnish competitive bids to purchase businesses otherwise at risk of reducing their workforce.

Testimony on Senate Bill 2173 (Payday Lending)
The Institute supports passage of Senate Bill 2173 which eliminates the deferred deposit transactions that drive the payday loan industry in Rhode Island. Payday loans, such as those currently permitted in Rhode Island, are high-cost loans that are structured to perpetuate an ongoing cycle of debt.

Testimony on House Bill 7316 (Affordable Housing)
The Institute supports passage of House Bill 7316 which would provide for $5 million of capital investment for affordable housing development in the FY 2019 budget and subsequent years. EPI’s mission is to promote economic stability for all Rhode Islanders. The lack of affordable housing is a cavernous gap in the ability of working families and people living on a fixed income to meet basic needs.

Testimony on House Bill 7094 (Medicare Premium Savings Programs)
The Institute opposes House Bill 7094 which would increase the income eligibility limits for the Medicare Premium Savings Programs and eliminate the asset test. This would allow more low-income seniors and people with disabilities who rely on Medicare for most of their health care needs to be relieved of the cost of at least their monthly Medicare premium, thus freeing up their limited income to meet other basic needs.

Testimony on Senate Bill 2394 (Sales and Use Tax)
The Institute opposes passage of Senate Bill 2394 which would remove the sales tax on pet care services, eroding state revenues needed for the critical investments needed to build thriving communities and a strong vibrant economy.

Testimony on House Bill 7099 (Sales Tax Holiday)
The Institute opposes House Bill 7099 which creates a sales tax holiday in mid-August, eroding state revenues needed for the critical investments needed to build thriving communities and a strong vibrant economy. Eroding this revenue source in any way places critical public investments in jeopardy.

Testimony on House Bill 7315 (EITC)
The Institute supports passage of House Bill 7315 (Slater) that would increase the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit from 15 percent of the federal level to 20 percent of the federal level.

Testimony on Senate Bill 2871 (Workforce)
The Institute supports passage of Senate Bill 2871 which would provide an opportunity for employees affected by plant closings or mass layoffs to furnish competitive bids to purchase businesses otherwise at risk of reducing their workforce.

Testimony on House Bills 7146, 7147, 7432 (Estate Tax)
The Institute opposes House Bills 7146, 7147, 7432 which would erode Rhode Island’s estate tax, depriving the Treasury of much-needed revenues, and making our current inequitable tax structure even more so.

Testimony on House Bill 7385 (Foreclosure Mediation Act)
The Institute supports passage of House Bill 7385, which would remove the sunset provision on the Foreclosure Mediation Act. The General Assembly wisely enacted the Foreclosure Mediation Act in 2013 in response to the frightening number of foreclosures in our state during and post-recession to ensure that homeowners had the opportunity to keep their homes, if possible. Since passage of the Act, 70% of homeowners who participated in the mediation process were able to avoid foreclosure.

Testimony on House Bill 7891, Senate Bill 2567 (Driver’s Licences for Undocumented Immigrants)
The Institute supports passage of H7891 (Williams) and S2567 (Ciccone), bills that would allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue driving privilege licenses/permits to Rhode Islanders who are unable to establish lawful presence in the United States. Note that this is separate from the DACA Driver’s licenses bills that have passed the House and Senate.

Testimony on House Bill 7803 / Senate Bill 2734 (Long-term Care Delivery)
The Institute supports passage of House Bill 7803 and Senate Bill 2734 which will further our state’s long-standing goal of providing more opportunity for seniors and people with disabilities to live in their homes and communities. The 2006 findings also acknowledged the need “to assure that rates paid for community-based long-term care services are adequate to assure high quality as well as supportive of workforce recruitment and retention”. The Independent Choice option will help further this goal as well – promoting improved working conditions for the 10,000 plus direct care workers who provide such a vital service to their clients and to our state.

Testimony on House Bill 7148 (Child Care Assistance)
The Institute supports passage of House Bill 7148 (Diaz). Representative Diaz’s companion bill would expand on the Governor’s proposed Article 15 to create a tiered reimbursement rate structure based on quality for all child care programs.

Testimony on Senate Bill 2120 and Article 15 (Child Care Assistance)
The Institute supports passage of Senate Bill 2120 (Crowley) and Article 15 of the Governor’s proposed budget that invests $1.5 million to create a tiered reimbursement rate structure based on quality for infants and toddlers and creates a pilot program allowing parents enrolled in post-secondary education to access child care assistance. Senator Crowley and Representative Diaz’s companion bill would expand on Article 15 to create a tiered reimbursement rate structure based on quality for all child care programs.

Testimony on Senate Bill 2217 (EITC)
The Institute supports passage of Senate Bill 2017 (Goldin) that would increase the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit from 15 percent of the federal level to 20 percent of the federal level.

Testimony on Senate Bill 2389 (Tax Equity)
The Institute supports passage of Senate Bill 2389 (Satchell) that would create three new tax brackets to the state’s income tax structure at $275,000, $500,000, and $1,000,000 (with increased rates of 7.99%, 8.49%, and 8.99%, respectively). EPI using data from The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) argue that it would raise $130 million dollars and only affect 2.2% of all Rhode Island filers.

Testimony on House Bill 7860 (Medicaid income eligibility)
The Institute supports passage of House Bill 7680 which would increase the Medicaid income eligibility limit for seniors and people with disabilities. Under current rules, the income limit is 100% of the federal poverty level ($1,012/month for a single adult). The income counting methodology is based on gross earned and unearned income, with a $20 disregard applied to unearned income and additional disregards to earned income. There is also a resource test of $4,000

Testimony on Senate Bill 2472 (Jobs Development Act)
The Institute supports passage of Senate Bill 2472 which sunsets/discontinues the Jobs Development Act (JDA) rate reduction as of July 1, 2018. Since 2008, Rhode Island revenues have been depleted by more than $160 million as a result of JDA tax abatements, depriving the state Treasury of much-needed resources while our schools, bridges, and roads have fallen further into disrepair. ORA’s recommendation is particularly relevant to the bill, noting that the inclusion of sunset provisions in economic development tax incentive bills is considered a “best practice”, and recommending the addition of a sunset provision for the JDA or a time limit on the length of time a company could be eligible to claim the rate reduction.

Testimony on Senate Bill 2785 Sub A2 (Essential Health Benefits)
The Institute and the Protect Our Health Care Coalition support passage of Senate Bill 2472 because it enacts Essential Health Benefits (EHBs) and no-cost sharing for preventative services as a part of state law.  This is important as ongoing administrative actions at the Federal level continue to erode key consumer protections of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Past Testimony

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