As policymakers continue to grapple with the effects of the pandemic, fiscal and otherwise, RIPEC brings you a brief update on the major public policy issues impacting Rhode Island
RIPEC on Public Policy
- RIPEC’s report on school reopenings raises concerns about increased inequity across Rhode Island’s public K-12 system. The report analyzes key aspects of the education experience during the pandemic and provides a full picture of the reopening status of each of the state’s 36 school districts.
- Providence Journal, “R.I. students from low-income families are more likely to be learning remotely, a new study says – and they’re the ones who most need to be back in a real classroom”
- Providence Business News, “RIPEC: Only one-third of R.I. students had access to in-person school learning by Oct. 13”
- In response to a question about the governor’s proposed $69 million “green” bond, RIPEC President and CEO Michael DiBiase told the Boston Globe that green bonds may not be “as optimal as other proposals in terms of stimulating the economy” but that historically low interest rates, Rhode Island’s relatively low level of capital investment, and the fact that the state has headroom to borrow makes it a good time to invest. “It’s one of the few tools we have to spur the economy and help us rebound,” DiBiase said.
- Michael DiBiase commented on a Providence Business News article about Rhode Island’s $1.25 billion federal Coronavirus Relief Fund allocation, and the $900 million that remains unspent and unencumbered with the December 31 deadline to do so looming. Stating that “Individual Rhode Islanders and Rhode Island businesses . . . should have received a larger portion of these funds,” DiBiase also suggested that part of the Fund be used to replenish the state’s depleted unemployment insurance trust fund.
- RIPEC welcomed four new Directors to its Board last week: Junior Jabbie, President & CEO of Banneker Supply Chain Solutions; Wade Knudson, Deputy Vice President, Naval Power at Raytheon Missiles & Defense; Michele Lederberg, Executive Vice President of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Rhode Island; and Lara Salamano, Providence Design and Innovation Center Lead and Senior Digital Manager at Infosys.
- The November Revenue Estimating Conference wrapped up last Friday, with principals from the administration, House, and Senate considerably revising their May estimate for fiscal year (FY) 2021 general revenues upwards, by $330.6 million (or 8.9 percent). However, estimated revenues of $4.1 billion are still $7.5 million (0.2 percent) less than FY 2020 revenues. FY 2022 estimated revenues of $4.0 billion are even more concerning since they are $11.5 million (0.3 percent) lower than estimated for FY 2021, and it is unlikely federal assistance will be available to help balance next fiscal year’s budget.
- The Education Commission of the States released a helpful resource that tracks state education policies spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. As Rhode Island policymakers consider how to improve a public education system deeply affected by partial and full school closures, it is worth considering how other states are attempting to tackle this learning crisis.
What to Look for in November
- Five months in and still without a budget for fiscal year 2021, the impending shakeup of House leadership in the Rhode Island General Assembly only adds uncertainty to what has already been a particularly drawn-out and difficult budget season. Yet, it is still likely that the Assembly will move to tackle passage of the budget this month, especially considering that there is a year-end deadline for expending or encumbering federal CARES Act funds.
- Tomorrow, RIPEC and the Center for Global and Regional Economic Studies at Bryant University are set to jointly release the Current Economic Indicator Briefing for the third quarter of 2020. The Briefing shows that, despite economic expansion compared to the previous quarter, the state has a long way to go before it fully recovers from the pandemic’s economic drag.
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