As we approach the home stretch of the 2022 legislative session, RIPEC brings you a brief update on public policy developments in Rhode Island.
RIPEC on Public Policy
- RIPEC President and CEO Michael DiBiase argued in an op-ed published in The Boston Globe that Rhode Island policymakers should use a portion of the windfall of one-time federal relief and surplus funds to “insulate the state budget from hard cuts during a future recession or period of fiscal restraint.” DiBiase recommended bolstering the state’s rainy day fund and replenishing the unemployment insurance trust fund, which was depleted significantly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Municipalities are also grappling with spending federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds as they craft budgets for the upcoming fiscal year. Michael DiBiase spoke with WJAR 10 about municipal spending plans, including proposed water and sewer upgrades. These are “not very sexy projects,” he said, but “typically they have broad impact[s] that are positive for the community” and enable cities and towns to “avoid some borrowing.”
- Michael DiBiase testified before the House Committee on Finance on a proposal to increase education funding for disadvantaged students through the state’s education funding formula. DiBiase urged the committee to undertake a comprehensive study of the education funding formula and pursue broader reforms to remedy financial disparities between districts and address poor student outcomes.
- According to updated revenue and spending forecasts, Rhode Island is projected to close fiscal year (FY) 2022 with an $877.5 million surplus. New consensus estimates project that revenues from taxes in FY 2022 will be 17.7 percent greater than assumed in the enacted budget, driven by a sizable jump in personal income and sales and use tax revenues. The large surplus has spurred discussion about tax cuts in the coming budget year, including accelerating the phase-out of the state’s car tax.
- A new policy brief from the Annenberg Institute at Brown University analyzes how Rhode Island school districts plan to spend the first two allocations of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds distributed during the pandemic, which total $185 million. According to the brief, districts have collectively proposed using ESSER dollars to fund over 1,000 new academic personnel positions, among other spending plans. District spending plans for the largest round of ESSER funds, totaling $333 million, have not yet been made public
What to Look for in June
- Michael DiBiase will appear with Tim White and Steph Machado on WPRI 12’s Newsmakers this weekend. Watch Sunday at 5:30 a.m. on WPRI 12 or 10 a.m. on Fox Providence, or listen on Sunday at 6 p.m. on WPRO.
- State lawmakers will unveil their spending plan for FY 2023, which is expected to allocate the state’s general revenue surplus and a portion of available ARPA funds.
- The City of Providence will hold a special election on June 7, where voters will be asked to approve a proposed $515 million pension obligation bond (POB). On Wednesday, the Rhode Island House of Representatives approved amended legislation authorizing the POB with guardrails intended to mitigate potential risks.