Pell Bridge, Spending Reduction Tools: This Week at the State House
Saturday, March 18, 2017
GoLocalProv Political Team
Plans were announced to reconfigure the Pell bridge ramps, a package of municipal spending tools was introduced and more. This week at the State House.
Plans announced to reconfigure Pell bridge ramps
Gov. Gina Raimondo, President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown), Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown), Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton, Little Compton), Newport city officials, and Rhode Island Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti Jr. announced that they have agreed on initial plans to reconfigure the Pell Bridge ramps to provide quicker access to Newport town center, to relieve traffic backups on the bridge, and to open 34 acres for redevelopment.
Rep. Casimiro bill would include mobile homes as low/moderate income housing
Rep. Julie A. Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter) has introduced legislation that would allow mobile and manufactured homes that are part of mobile and manufactured home parks to be counted as low and moderate income housing within a municipality. Sen. Paul W. Fogarty (D-Dist. 23, Glocester, Burrillville, North Smithfield) has introduced the companion legislation in the Senate. Sen.Elaine J. Morgan, (R-Dist. 34, Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich), has proposed similar legislation as well.
Rep. Tobon reintroduces bill requiring the listing of all ingredients on cosmetics
Rep. Carlos E. Tobon (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket) has reintroduced legislation that requires manufacturers to disclose all cosmetic ingredients on product labels and company websites. Representative Tobon introduced the bill last legislative session and it has been referred to the House Committee on Health, Education & Welfare.
Rep. Morgan introduces package of municipal spending reduction tools
House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan (R-Dist. 26, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) has introduced a package of legislation designed to bring fiscal relief to cities and towns across Rhode Island. These municipal spending reduction tools will eliminate and reform state mandated laws that prevent municipalities from being able to control their spending. If passed, the package will help towns reduce their costs for pensions, building repairs, insurance, and litigation. These bills provide a path to lessen and reduce the need to collect higher taxes from residents.
Coalition announces campaign to end the carried interest tax loophole
The Strong Economy for All Coalition announced its support of bills sponsored by Rep. Aaron Regunberg (D-Dist. 4, Providence) and Sen. Adam J. Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick) to tax the carried interest income of hedge fund and private equity investors as traditional earned income.
Rep. Corvese bill would create animal abuse registry
Rep. Arthur Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence) has filed legislation to create a statewide animal abuser registry aimed at preventing those with a history of mistreating animals from obtaining more of them.
Advocates back careful study of marijuana legalization’s effects
At an event announcing their opposition to marijuana legalization in Rhode Island, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, the Ocean State Prevention Alliance and What’s the Rush, Rhode Island? put their support behind legislation sponsored by Sen. Cindy A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence) and Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton) to establish a commission to study the impact of legalization in Colorado and Washington State to better understand the impact it might have on Rhode Island.
Sen. Felag introduces R.I. Livable Home Tax Credit legislation
Sen. Walter S. Felag, Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton) has introduced legislation that would create the Rhode Island Livable Home Tax Credit. The act would provide a tax credit against the state’s personal income tax for taxpayers who purchase new residences or retrofit residences that meet or are modified to meet standards that make the residences more accessible for the elderly or disabled persons. Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) has introduced the companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
Rep. Shanley bill would establish student loan forgiveness program
Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick) has introduced legislation that would establish the “Get on Your Feet” student loan forgiveness program. The legislation would assist recent college and university graduates in the repayment of their student loans by providing for payments to eligible students to be applied toward their student loans. The program would apply only to those who went to high school and college in Rhode Island, and live and work in the state.
Rep. Nardolillo bill aims to protect families with a disabled parent
Rep. Robert Nardolillo (R-Dist. 28, Coventry) has submitted legislation to prevent a parent’s disability from serving as the basis for denial or restriction in a matter involving a child’s welfare, foster care, family law, guardianship or adoption without written findings by Family Court.
Criminal Justice Reform
Per recommendations from the Justice Reinvestment Working Group, the Governor is proposing nearly $1 million in investments such as the public defender mental health program ($185,000), improved mental health services at the ACI ($410,000), recovery housing ($200,000) and domestic violence intervention, in her FY18 budget.
English Language Learners
Under the heading of “promoting 3rd grade reading,” Raimondo proposed adding $2.5 million to make English Language Learning (ELL) K-12 funding permanent. The Governor’s office points out that RI is one of four states that doesn’t have permanent funding.
The suggestion was one made by the Funding Formula Working Group in January 2016, who said that “in the event that Rhode Island chooses to make an additional investment in ELLs, the funding should be calculated to be responsive to the number of ELLs in the system and based on reliable data, and include reasonable restrictions to ensure that the money is used to benefit ELLs — and promote the appropriate exiting of ELL students from services.”
Car Owners - and Drivers
Governor Raimondo wants to reduce assessed motor vehicle values by 30% - a change that would reduce total car tax bills by about $58 million in calendar year 2018. Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello, however, has indicated that he might want to go further in its repeal.
In her budget proposal, Raimondo also put forth adding 8 staffers to the the Department of Motor Vehicles to "address wait times."
The “Air Services Development Fund” would get an influx of $500,000 to “provide incentives to airlines interested in launching new routes or increasing service to T.F. Green Airport.” The Commerce Corporation set the criteria at the end of 2016 for how to grant money through the new (at the time $1.5 million fund).
Also getting a shot in the arm is the I-195 development fund, which would receive $10.1 million from debt-service savings to “resupply” the Fund to “catalyze development & attract anchor employers.”
Minimum Wage Increase
An increase in the state minimum wage is part of Raimondo’s proposal, which would see it go from $9.60 an hour to $10.50 an hour. Raimondo was unsuccessful in her effort in 2016 to bring it up to $10.10 — it was June 2015 that she signed legislation into law that last raised Rhode Island’s minimum wage, from $9 to 9.60.
The state's minimum hourly wage has gone up from $6.75 in January 2004 to $7.75 in 2013, $8 in 2014, and $9 on Jan. 1, 2015. Business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Business however have historically been against such measures, citing a hamper on job creation.
Like the minimum wage, Raimondo is looking for an increase - in this instance, the cigarette tax, and revenue to state coffers. Raimondo was unsuccessful in her effort to go from a tax of $3.75 to $4 last year. Now she is looking for an increase to $4.25 per pack, which the administration says would equate to $8.7 million in general revenue — and go in part towards outdoor recreation and smoking cessation programs.
The National Federation of Independent Business and other trade groups have historically been against such an increase, saying it will hurt small businesses - i.e. convenience stores. And clearly, if you’re a smoker, you’re likely to place this squarely in the loser category instead.
As often happens in the state budget, winner one year, loser the next. As GoLocal reported in 2016, “the Rhode Island Hospital Association immediately lauded the budget following its introduction, and addressed that while it is facing some reductions, that it "applauds" this years budget after landing on the "loser" list last year.”
This year, it falls back on the loser list, with a Medicaid rate freeze to hospitals, nursing homes, providers, and payers — at FY 2017 levels, with a 1% rate cut come January 1, 2018.
The taxman cometh — maybe. Raimondo proposed an “Internet Sales Tax Initiative” — which would purportedly equate to $34.7 million in revenues.
"Online sales and the fact that online sellers do not collect sales tax has created a structural problem for Rhode Island's budget — our sales taxes have been flat," said Director of Administration Michael DiBiase, of the tax that Amazon collects in 33 states, but not Rhode Island. "We think mostly due to online sales, we’re able to capture the growth. The revenue number is $35 million dollars — it improves our structural deficit problem. It’s an important fiscal development."
Long Term Care Funding
The Governor’s proposal recommends “redesigning the nature” of the State’s Integrated Care Initiative, by transferring long-term stay nursing home members from Neighborhood Health to Medicaid Fee-for-Service and repurposing a portion of the anticipated savings (from reduced administrative payments to Neighborhood Health) for “enhanced services in the community.” “The investments in home- and community-based care will help achieve the goal of rebalancing the long-term care system," states the Administration.
Cutting that program is tagged at saving $12.2 million; cuts and “restructuring” at Health and Human Services is slated to save $46.3 million.