With the legislative session in full swing, RIPEC brings you an update on public policy in the Ocean State.
RIPEC on Public Policy
- Responding to the news that the University of Rhode Island, which has long been underfunded, now enrolls more out-of-state students than in-state students, RIPEC President and CEO Michael DiBiase told the Boston Globe that the Ocean State needs to prioritize greater investments to higher education. “Rhode Island’s higher education expenditures are over 30 percent below the U.S. average [and so] a 30 percent increase in funding for URI is not unreasonable as an objective,” he said, but “it would be . . . prudent to have a plan for an increased level of investment over a period of years.”
- Michael DiBiase testified before the House Committee on Finance that the state education funding formula needs to be revised to provide more equitable levels of funding for districts with low levels of property wealth and high proportions of economically disadvantaged and limited English proficient students. RIPEC is “here in support of aspects of the governor’s budget [plan for education], but also to urge this committee and assembly to pursue more ambitious and comprehensive changes to the school funding formula,” he said
- RIPEC’s Manager of Research Justine Oliva spoke with the East Bay News about the state of K-12 education in Rhode Island, including its shocking level of student chronic absenteeism, which shot up to 34 percent in the 2021-2022 school year. This figure represents “students [who] were not in their classrooms . . . [and] were not learning,” she said. In a report released last October, RIPEC highlighted the crisis in Rhode Island’s education system and offered a road map for reform.
- In a recent analysis, the Tax Foundation found that 21 states cut their income tax rates in 2021 or 2022, and that over a dozen states are considering cuts for 2023. The median state top individual income tax rate is down from 5.5 percent in 2017 to 5.0 percent in 2022, according to the study, but tax collections rose 9.3 percent in real dollars in this same period. Rhode Island remains above the national average with a top individual income tax rate of 5.99 percent.
- Public school enrollment has fallen significantly in Rhode Island and across the U.S. since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both private schools and homeschooling have seen increases, but a new analysis across 21 states estimates that 230,000 students remain unaccounted for and are essentially missing from the system.
What to Look for in March
- Members of the General Assembly have keyed into a tangible personal property tax exemption as a means of delivering tax relief for businesses. At the Greater Providence Chamber’s Annual Legislative Luncheon, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio expressed support for modifications that would lessen the effect of what he called an “onerous” tax on business, while reimbursing cities and towns for lost revenue. Meanwhile, two bills were introduced in the House last week that would put in place statewide tangible tax exemptions on up to $250,000 of assessed value, one of which would reimburse cities and towns for lost revenue while the other would allow municipalities to recoup revenue through higher tax rates. RIPEC is working closely with policymakers on providing tangible property tax relief.
- A package of legislation to address the state housing crisis is being released with support from House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi. Speaker Shekarchi has previously said that the newly created Low/Moderate Income Housing and Land Use special legislative commissions would be important in developing coordinated policy solutions.