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 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 (Foreclosure Mediation Act)
The Institute supports passage of Senate Bill 2270, 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 Senate Bill 2470 (Paid Leave)
The Institute supports passage of 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 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 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 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.