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.

2017 Legislative Testimony

Testimony in Support of Governor’s Budget Article 20 (Min Wage)
The Institute testified in support of the Governor’s FY18 Budget Article 20 which increases the minimum wage to $10.50 in 2017.

Testimony in Support of Senate Bill 0350 (Wage Theft)
The Institute testified in support of S350 which would expand Rhode Island’s current protections against wage theft, by prohibiting employers from subjecting their employees to wage theft by deducting from wages for spoilage, breakage, cash shortages, or fines, or by imposing penalties for tardiness, misconduct, or quitting by an employee without notice.

Testimony in Support of H5453 (All Students Count Act)
The Institute testified in support of H5453, the All Students Count Act which would require schools to gather and report on an agreed-upon set of sub groups within the “Asian” category and other categories as appropriate. As our “State of Working Rhode Island, 2015: Workers of Color Report” demonstrated, the failure to report sub-categories within the “Asian” category can mask significant differences among sub-populations. In our 2015 report, the “All Asian” category shows median income of $36,105. But the median income for South East Asians is only $30,621 and the median income for South and other Asians is $50,000. Just as the “All Asian” category masks these significant wage differences, collecting data about K-12 “Asian” students may mask potential significant differences in educational achievement among sub-populations.

Testimony in Support of S206 (Child Support)
The Institute submitted written testimony in support of S206 which would allow the Office of Child Support Services (OCSS) to automate the process of initiating reviews of a child support orders for non-custodial parents at the ACI who will be incarcerated for 180 days or longer. The bill will improve the efficiency of the current child support modification process and help eliminate the accrual of arrears, making it more likely that the parent will meet his child support obligation when he is released from the ACI.

Testimony in Support of Article 3 (RI Promise)
The Institute submitted written testimony in support of Article 3 of Governor Raimondo’s budget which would allow RI high school seniors to be able to attain an Associate’s degree at CCRI and complete a Bachelor’s degree at RIC or URI. Improving opportunities for our high school graduates to continue their education is an important part of what should be a comprehensive approach to ensuring more Rhode Islanders can attain economic security and employers have the skilled workforce they need to compete in the national and global economies. A comprehensive approach includes expanding early learning opportunities for children through expanding pre-K and child care (areas that have also seen investments over the past few years); ensuring high quality K-12 schools that meet the diverse needs of all students; and providing more opportunities for the current adult workforce to improve their skills and earnings capacity, such as ending the waiting list for adults anxious to improve their English language skills.

Testimony in Opposition to Budget Article 2 (Eco. Dev. & Tax Credits)
The Institute presented testimony in the House in opposition to the Governor’s Budget article 2 which would further expand the number and range of tax credits used for economic development. With a new report forthcoming that should provide helpful information to assess the effectiveness of Rhode Island’s existing economic development tax incentives, we advise against further expanding Rhode Island’s suite of tax credits. Retaining a larger share of tax revenues to invest in a healthy and well-educated workforce, transportation, and other critical infrastructure may have a greater impact on Rhode Island’s future economic prosperity.

Testimony in Support of H5413 (Earned Sick Days)
The Institute testified in support of H5413 which would provide paid sick leave to Rhode Island workers. One significant reason to pass paid sick leave legislation is that failing to do so further exacerbates disparities based on income. The Economic Policy Institute shows in stark terms that “rich people have paid sick days [while] poor people do not.”

Testimony in Support of H5057 (Minimum Wage)
The Institute testified in support of House Bill 5057 increasing the minimum wage for Rhode Island workers to $10.50. Putting more money in the pockets of Rhode Island workers not only helps those families, it also puts more money in the cash registers of local businesses and creates jobs in Rhode Island.

Testimony in Support of H5595 AND H5315 (Tipped Wage)
The Institute submitted written testimony supporting the provisions in House Bill 5595 and 5315 increasing the minimum wage for tipped workers. After decades of stagnant wage growth, lower income Rhode Islanders can best contribute to a vibrant Ocean State economy if their wages are sufficient to allow them to spend their income on goods and services, supporting local businesses in every Rhode Island community.

Testimony in Opposition to H5742 (EBT Cards)
The Institute submitted written testimony in opposition to House Bill 55742 which would require individuals using their EBT card to provide a photo identification card at the time of a transaction. While the bill amends a section of the law that applies to the use of RI Works cash assistance, requirements pertaining to the use of EBT cards impacts SNAP benefits as well.  This is because an individual who receives both RI Works cash assistance and SNAP benefits has one EBT card through which their cash benefit and their SNAP benefit are accessed. To the extent this bill is intended to reduce SNAP trafficking – such trafficking involves the conspiring of both recipients and retailers, requiring photo identification would not act as any sort of deterrent.

Testimony in Support of H5686 (Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants)
The Institute submitted written testimony in support of House Bill 5686 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. Allowing our working neighbors to have a driving privilege license/permit will not only ensure they are safe drivers but can promote additional work hours or job changes that can improve the local and state economies.

Testimony in Support of S290 (Earned Sick Days)
The Institute submitted written testimony in support of Senate Bill 290 which would provide paid sick leave to Rhode Island workers. One significant reason to pass paid sick leave legislation is that failing to do so further exacerbates disparities based on income. The Economic Policy Institute shows in stark terms that “rich people have paid sick days [while] poor people do not.” As with every workplace reform in this nation, opponents of earned sick time in every jurisdiction warned the sky would fall. They were wrong. They warned of unintended consequences of job loss and business flight. It never happened. What we have learned from the Family [email protected] network is that, across the country, these 40 local economies where paid sick days policies have been implemented are thriving!

Testimony in Support of S676 (Worker’s Cooperatives)
The Economic Progress Institute supports Senate Bill 676, An Act Relating to Corporations, Associations, and Partnerships – Workers’ Cooperatives. In establishing a mechanism for the formation of enterprises that are not only owned, but also democratically controlled and operated by their own workers, this bill provides an important set of tools to address several key economic challenges facing Rhode Island today.

Testimony in Opposition to Budget Article 2 (Eco. Dev. & Tax Credits)
The Institute presented testimony in the Senate in opposition to the Governor’s Budget article 2 which would further expand the number and range of tax credits used for economic development. With a new report forthcoming that should provide helpful information to assess the effectiveness of Rhode Island’s existing economic development tax incentives, we advise against further expanding Rhode Island’s suite of tax credits. Retaining a larger share of tax revenues to invest in a healthy and well-educated workforce, transportation, and other critical infrastructure may have a greater impact on Rhode Island’s future economic prosperity.

Past Testimony

Testimony in support of House Bill 8057 (RI Works Program)
The Institute testified in support of Representative Abney’s bill H 8057 which would eliminate the 24 month time limit for families receiving benefits under the RI Works program. There is no evidence that the 24 month time limit is a necessary part of the RI Works framework to achieve good outcomes for parents. In fact, the opposite is true. It is time to repeal this provision of RI Works. To learn more about the RI Works program and other state welfare time limits, click here.

Testimony in support of H 7927 (Temporary Caregivers Insurance)
The institute submitted written testimony in support of Representative Maldonado’s bill H7927 which would make improvements to the Temporary Caregiver’s Insurance (TCI) Program. The changes included in this bill will increase participation and fairness for lower wage workers by: 1) exempting a portion of their salary from contribution so they are able to keep more of their paycheck while they are working and 2) increasing the wage replacement percentage so that if those workers need to participate in the TCI program, they will receive a larger share of their salary while they are out on leave. Lifting the earnings cap on contributions is a reasonable and equitable way to insure that the contribution pool stays strong.

Testimony in Support of H 7347 (Earned Income Tax Credit)
The Institute testified in support of H 7347 which proposes raising the state Earned Income Tax Credit to 20 percent of the federal credit. An increased state EITC will help 83,000 of  Rhode Island’s working families meet their basic needs. and has a significant return on investment that will help Rhode Island’s economy. The merits support making an increased state EITC a priority investment in hard working Rhode Islanders.

Testimony in Opposition to H 7383 & H 7732 (Estate Tax Credit)
The Institute testified against H 7383, which exempts from the estate tax “property used in the conduct of a trade or business” to the value of five million dollars, and H 7732, which exempts from the estate tax “the value of a qualified small business valued at an amount not greater than $5,000,000.” Exempting estates valued at $5 million or more from estate taxes benefits only the most wealthy Rhode Islanders. We expect our public dollars to be used for our common good, to fund our schools, maintain our bridges, and protect the safety of the air we breathe and the water we drink.

Testimony in support of H 7235 (Dis-aggregated Data in Schools)
The Institute testified in support of the All Students Count Act, which would require schools to gather and report on an agreed-upon set of sub groups within the Asian/Pacific islander category. Currently schools report racial and ethnic data about students in the following categories:  Native American, Asian Pacific, Black, White, Hispanic, Multi-Race. The failure to report sub-categories within Asian/Pacific Islander can mask significant differences among these populations, as our recent  “State of Working Rhode Island, 2015: Workers of Color Report” demonstrates.

Testimony in Support of H 7628 (Protection from Wage Theft)
The Institute submitted testimony in support of H7628 which would grant employees several additional avenues to help them collect their wages from nonpaying employers, sets forth penalties for nonpayment of wages by an employer, and implements a new procedure for filing of claims. Enacting this bill will give some teeth to Rhode Island’s current protections against wage theft.

Testimony in Support of S 2721 (Earned Sick Leave)
The Institute testified in support of S2721, An Act Relating To Labor And Labor Relations— Healthy And Safe Families And Workplaces Act, which would provide earned sick leave for RI workers. This measure has broad support, even by business leaders. A recent survey of American CEOs indicating that a vast majority of those polled (73 percent) support paid sick days, while just 16 percent opposed paid sick days.

Testimony in Support of S 2723 (Temporary Caregiver Insurance)
The Economic Progress Institute testified in support of S2723 which would make improvements to the Temporary Caregiver’s Insurance (TCI) Program, increasing participation and fairness for lower wage workers. Lifting the earnings cap on contribution is a reasonable and equitable way to insure that the contribution pool stays strong.

Testimony in Support of S 2587 (Unemployment Insurance)
The Institute testified in support of increasing the maximum weekly unemployment benefit rate to the higher of fifty-seven and one-half percent (57.5%) of the average weekly wages paid to workers in the prior calendar year or six hundred sixteen dollars ($616) per week. Passage of this bill would help individuals (and their families) by providing them with a source of income during periods of unemployment and insulate the Rhode Island economy from the negative effects of economic impacts.

Testimony in Support of H 7694 (Gender Wage Gap)
The Institute testified in support of the FAIR PAY Act, a bill that takes important steps to address persistent wage differentials based on gender. The Institute estimates that if trends continue, women’s median wages will not be equal to men’s median wages in Rhode Island until 2038.

Testimony in Support of H 7633 (Earned Sick Leave)
The Institute submitted written testimony at the House Labor Committee in support of H7633, legislation introduced in the House of Representatives that if passed would provide Rhode Island workers with earned paid sick days. One significant reason to pass paid sick leave legislation is that failing to do so further exacerbates disparities based on income. The Economic Policy Institute shows in stark terms that “rich people have paid sick days [while] poor people do not.” Moreover, employer savings and government savings are considerable, creating a more productive workforce that is less reliant on public assistance and emergency rooms for treatment of illnesses.

Testimony in Support of H 7285 (Minimum Wage)
The Institute supports Representative Bennett’s bill H7285 which would further increase Rhode Island’s minimum wage to $11.00/hour increasing wages for 107,100 Rhode Island workers (22 percent of total workforce), by a total of $80.1 million. An $11 minimum wage would give the Rhode Island economy a further boost. Critics of increasing the minimum wage argue that raising the minimum wage will result in job loss. A meta-analysis done by the Center for Economic and Policy research that looked at over a thousand academic papers, shows that there is essentially no aggregate impact on employment levels.

Testimony in Support of: S2379, S2235, & S2475 (Protection from Wage Theft)
The Institute submitted testimony in support of S2235, S2379, and S2475, each of which addresses different dimensions of wage theft, which undermines the well-being of workers in Rhode Island. Wage theft has contributed to the decline in the lowest 20 percent of wages in RI– down more than a dollar per hour since 2000. Additionally, we urge the Finance Committee to work with their legislative colleagues to provide the Department of Labor and Training the resources necessary to ensure full enforcement of all of Rhode Island’s laws protecting against wage theft (The Governor’s proposed funding for the Workforce Regulation and Safety Division for 2017 falls short of 2014 spending by nearly $70,000)

Testimony in support of H 7610 (Licenses for Undocumented Workers)
The Institute submitted written testimony in support of Representative Williams’s bill (H7610) 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.Undocumented immigrants contribute an estimated total of $33 million in taxes to Rhode Island. Allowing our working neighbors to have a driving privilege license/permit will not only ensure they are safe drivers but can promote additional work hours or job changes that can improve the local and state economies.

Testimony in Support of H 7325 (Carbon Tax)
The Institute testified in support of H7325 which would make Rhode Island the first state in the nation to put a price on carbon through a carbon tax. While a portion of the carbon tax will be passed onto consumers, including lower-income families, in the form of higher prices, the Energize Rhode Island Act addresses this concern, by providing rebates to Rhode Island families and businesses, ensuring they come out ahead–especially if they do their part to reduce their own carbon emissions.

Testimony in Support of Governor’s Budget Article 13 (Min Wage / EITC)
The Institute testified in support of the Governor’s FY17 Budget Article 13 which increases the minimum wage to $10.10 next year and expands the state earned income tax credit from 12.5 percent to 15 percent of the federal credit (the Governor indicated an interest in further expanding the EITC pending available resources following the mid-year revenue forecast). Senator Goldin and Representative Slater have each introduced bills (S 2156 and H 7347) to further increase the EITC to 20 percent of the federal credit.

Testimony in Support of H 7505 (Protection from Wage Theft)
The Institute testified in support of a bill before the House Labor Committee that expands Rhode Island’s current protections against wage theft, by prohibiting employers from subjecting their employees to wage theft by deducting from wages for spoilage, breakage, cash shortages, fines or by imposing penalties for tardiness, misconduct, or quitting by an employee without notice.

Testimony in Opposition to H 7356 (Temporary Disability Insurance)
The Economic Progress Institute testified in opposition to H7356 highlighting concerns that the bill, which allows employees to opt-op of the TDI program would shrink the pool of those paying into the program, thus undermining the ability of the program to reimburse those who need the coverage.