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.
2019 Legislative Testimony
Testimony on House Bill 5196 (Court Fines)
The Institute supports Representative Blazejewski’s House bill 5196, which would standardize and restructure the assesment of a person’s ability to pay court fines, and require that qualification for Public Defender representation constitutes evidence of inability to pay.
House and Senate Testimonies on Governor’s Proposed FY2020 Budget – Article 13 (Minimum Wage)
The Institute supports legislation increasing Rhode Island’s minimum wage to $11.10 in 2020, as called for in Budget Article 13. Putting more money in the pockets of Rhode Island workers not only helps those families, it also supports local businesses and supports the Rhode Island economy.
House Testimony on House Bills H5097, H5269, H5338, H5658, H5660 (Minimum Wage)
The Institute supports increasing Rhode Island’s minimum wage. We believe Rhode Island should implement a $15 minimum wage as quickly as possible. Progress toward $15 for either a specific population or locality, as some of these bills propose, is important progress forward, but our goal must be a statewide $15 minimum wage, so working Rhode Islanders across the entire state can benefit.
Testimonies on H5033/S112 (Financial Literacy)
The Institute supports legislation which would ensure that Rhode Island students receive financial literacy education, will help achieve that goal by ensuring that students and their families:
- better understand financial savings institutions, including the benefits of savings accounts and the pitfalls to high cost pay day loans;
- are better educated loan borrowers to help reduce the likelihood of unnecessary longstanding student loan debt and;
- are more likely to be able to become or remain homeowners.
House and Senate Testimonies on Governor’s Proposed FY2020 Budget – Article 15, Sec. 5 (RI Works)
The Institute strongly supports the Governor’s budget proposal to repeal the 24 month time limit in the RI Works program. Repealing the 24 month time limit would:
- Improve the RI Works work-readiness program so parents are more likely to obtain and maintain long-term employment;
- Streamline program operation;
- Have no or minimal cost
House/Senate Testimony on Governor’s Proposed FY2020 Budget – Article 9 (Car Tax)
The Institute submitted an educational testimony on the car tax asking lawmakers to think critically about the car tax and review whether phase out of the car tax is good public policy.
Senate Testimony on Governor’s Proposed FY2020 Budget – Article 14 (Individual Mandate)
The Institute submitted testimony in support of Article 14 with changes, requesting amending the proposed structure of the shared responsibility payment penalty to protect lower income Rhode Islanders by exempting taxpayers with income below 150% of the federal poverty level (FPL) and setting the penalty as a percentage of income. Under the current proposal lowe income taxpayers would paya higher share of their income in penalties.
House H5137/Senate 321 (Source of Income Housing Discrimination)
The Institute submitted testimony in support of legislation which would prohibit discrimination in housing based on a person’s receipt of a lawful source of income. Rhode Island has a severe shortage of affordable and safe housing. Many working families are unable to find and afford a decent apartment in which to raise their children.
House Testimony on Governor’s Proposed FY2020 Budget – Article 11 (College Promise)
The Institute submitted testimony in support of budget article 11 but do not support the provision that the program would only be available to adults only once they turn 25. Setting the eligibility age for adults at 25, leaves a big gap – young adults between the ages of 19 and 24 would not be eligible for RI Promise. Yet this is precisely the group of young adults we should be encouraging to continue their education because they are likely to be already motivated to do so.
Testimony on Senate S508/ House H5957 (Fight for $15 Minimum Wage)
The Institute supports raising the minimum wage. We believe Rhode Island should implement a $15 minimum wage as quickly as possible for the reasons listed below. Raising the minimum wage by a lower amount or raising it to $15 for specific groups of workers would still make for valuable progress, but our goal must be a statewide $15 minimum wage, so that working Rhode Islanders across the entire state can benefit.
House Testimony on House H5511/Senate S153 (Driver’s Licenses for All)
The Institute submitted testimony in support of legislation which 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. As of June, 2016 twelve states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have enacted such laws. These include New England states, Connecticut and Vermont. The driving privilege license/permit is not a valid form of ID for voting or other benefits but providing these documents has economic and social benefit to the individuals and to the state.
Testimony on Senate S191/House H5521 (Payday Lending)
The Institute submitted testimony in support of legislation 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 structured to perpetuate an ongoing cycle of debt. Payday loans are harmful to consumers, and hurt the economy.
Senate Testimony on S683 (Shared Responsibility Payment)
The Institute supports with recommendations to improve fairness S683 which includes the provision which subjects short-term limited duration plans to the same regulations governing the individual health insurance market, the establishment of an individual mandate and reinsurance program proposed and attention to outreach to enroll uninsured individuals.
As stated previously, we recommend amending the proposed structure of the shared responsibility payment penalty to protect lower income Rhode Islanders by eliminating the flat penalty amount and instead setting the penalty as a percentage of income (2.5% up to 400% FPL and 3.2% above 400% FPL) and exempting individuals with income below 150% of the federal poverty level (FPL).
Testimony on Senate S262 and House H5617 (RI Works)
The Institute strongly supports passage of S-262. The bill would make two important changes to the RI Works Program, our state’s safety net and workforce development program for low income children and parents. The changes proposed in S-262 will (1) encourage 18 year olds to stay enrolled in high school and (2) improve parents’ earning capacity by allowing participation in two-years of post-secondary education. These changes will benefit small numbers of RI Works participants, but have a potentially large impact on improving educational and employment outcomes.
Testimony on Senate S272/House 5245 (Earned Income Tax Credit)
The Institute submitted our EITC brief in support of legislation that would increase the Rhode Island EITC to 20 percent of the federal credit.
Testimony on House (H6019)/Senate (S698) Bills (Non Compete Agreements)
The Institute supports legislation which prohibits enforcing noncompetition agreements on low-wage workers. As originally designed, noncompetition agreements aimed to prevent highly-compensated, executive-level or other highly-skilled employees from leaving one company for another within a competitive industry and harm competition through their knowledge and possibly bringing trade secrets from their former employers. Increasingly, however, such “agreements” have been imposed upon workers at all levels, including, for example, low-wage workers at fast food franchises.consumers, and hurt the economy.
Testimony on House 5310, 5312, 5594, 5777 (Estate Tax)
The Institute testified in opposition to legislation that would erode or eliminate Rhode Island’s already narrow Estate Tax, depriving the Treasury of much-needed revenues, and making our current inequitable tax structure even more inequitable. Should the Estate Tax be repealed altogether, Rhode Island stands to lose something on the order of a half-billion dollars in revenues over the next decade.
Testimony on House H5399/S21 (Personal Income Tax)
The Institute supports legislation H5399 which takes an important step in decreasing the regressivity and increasing the fairness of Rhode Island’s tax structure by adding three new personal income tax brackets, for households with adjusted gross incomes above $320,320.
Testimony on House H5106/Senate S282 (Child Care)
The Institute supports legislation H5399 which would increase tiered rates for preschoolers in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and establish and increase tiered quality rates for school-aged children. Legislation introduced will complete the work of ensuring providers are adequately reimbursed for the care they provide by adding additional increases for centers serving preschoolers (with increases ranging from 3% to 22% depending on the star level) and also establish tiered rates for school-aged children in centers, with increases ranging from 2.5% to 36%).
Testimony on Senate S816 (Adult Education)
The Rhode Island Workforce Alliance suggests changes to legislation which would move responsibility for the Adult Education Delivery System from the RI Department of Education (RIDE) to the Governor’s Workforce Board (GWB). We urge the General Assembly to put in place certain guardrails and protections to ensure that the quality, scope and structure of the current delivery system are maintained.
Testimony on Senate S172, 509 (Equal Pay)
The Institute supports legislation (S172) to require employers of 100 or more employees to report—by gender, race, ethnicity, and job category—information on compensation and hours worked. Senate Bill 509 would provide protections against employer imposed wage differentials based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, age, or country of origin. These bills will move Rhode Island towards equal pay, adding important protections to those currently in place both in Rhode Island and federally.
Testimony on House 5912/ Senate S765 (Paid Family Leave)
The Institute submitted our TCI brief in support of legislation that would improve Rhode Island’s paid family leave program by:
- Increasing the number of weeks a worker can use from four to six weeks in 2020 (and up to eight weeks in 2021),
- expanding the category of who a worker can take time to care for to include grandchildren, siblings, and care recipients,
- expanding who is eligible for TCI to include self-employed individuals,
- increasing the benefit rate from the current 60% of wages to 65% in 2020; 70% in 2021; 75% in 2022,
- institute fines and penalties for not reinstating an employee to work if they use TCI.