2014 Legislative Wrap-Up

During the 2014 legislative session the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs team was constantly watching, analyzing and advocating on issues that relate to our members and support the creation of a vibrant and dynamic economic environment.

The team, with assistance from member businesses and their employees, played a strong role in making 2014 one of the most successful and business-friendly legislative sessions in recent history. Consistently delivering the message that Rhode Island needs to create a business climate where people are prepared to support business development and workforce training, create companies and jobs, and invest in smart projects that will lead to economic growth, the Chamber praised the General Assembly for taking concrete steps in 2014 to strengthen the Ocean State’s economy.

This is a brief recap of the work the Chamber did on behalf of the business community in key areas of Economic Development, Taxes, and Reducing the Burden on Small Business during this recently concluded legislative session. We certainly welcome your input and your involvement in the months ahead to continue addressing important public policy issues.

Competitive Tax Code

The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce believes a fair and equitable system of taxation promotes private sector growth and makes Rhode Island more competitive.

  • Corporate Tax Rate: Enacted — The FY 2015 Budget included a measure to reduce the corporate income tax rate from 9% to 7% and enact combined reporting using the single factor of sales. This will move Rhode Island from having one of the highest top corporate tax rates, to the lowest in the Northeast.
  • Estate Tax: Enacted — The FY 2015 Budget eliminated the estate tax cliff and increased the exemption to $1.5 million. Once called the “most expensive place to die” by Kiplinger, this reform will help keep and attract businesses and top wage earners.
  • Franchise Tax: Not Enacted — The Chamber supported the elimination or reduction of the $500 franchise tax for the first three years of a company's existence, the measure failed to pass due to budget constraints.
  • Historic Tax Credits: Not Enacted — Although included in the budget submitted by the Governor, no funding was provided for historic tax credits.

Economic Development

The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce supports policies that improve our state's economic strengths, spur new business growth, encourage expansion of existing business, create jobs and stimulate private investment.

  • Joint Nursing Education Center: Enacted – The House and Senate each funded and approved the lease agreement for the project proposed by Brown University, The University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College to renovate the former South Street Power Station into a state-of-the-art health science facility that will include an advanced nursing school, administrative offices, classrooms and student apartments. The Chamber has been an outspoken advocate of this as a way to grow Rhode Island’s Knowledge Economy, create more than 500 immediate and long-term jobs, and enhance the development of nearby projects.
  • URI Engineering School: Enacted — The FY 2015 Budget provided for a general obligation referendum of $125 million for the URI engineering school, creating jobs and advancing the Knowledge Economy.
  • Garrahy Garage Project: Enacted — The FY 2015 Budget included provisions for the issuance of debt to fund the Garrahy garage project.
  • 38 Studios Payment: Enacted — The FY 2015 Budget included the next loan payment on the 38 Studios Loan Guaranty, which will maintain needed predictability in the market.

Reduce the Burden on Small Business

The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce believes a critical piece of strengthening Rhode Island's economy is reducing the burden on small businesses and investing in education and workforce training to ensure that our businesses can prosper and grow.

  • Minimum Wage: Not Enacted — The Chamber successfully lobbied for the minimum wage not to be tied to the CPI. This keeps the minimum wage from increasing without the affirmative action of the General Assembly.
  • Independent Contractor: Not Enacted — A measure that modifies the state's definition of an independent contractor allowing the Workers Compensation Court to apply the common law to determine whether an individual is an independent contractor did not pass. The Chamber opposed this legislation as it exceeds the federal IRS definition.
  • SBIR/STTR: Enacted — The FY 2015 Budget included funding to maintain the program to provide assistance to small businesses that are applying for or have received Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grants or Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) Grants. The Chamber has been outspoken in support of funding both programs, as they are proven to spur growth and innovation for small businesses.
  • Job Development Fund: Enacted — The House and Senate acted to strengthen job and skill training by exempting the Job Development Fund from indirect cost recovery.
  • Childhood and Adult Immunization Program: Enacted — The House and Senate included language in the budget to restructure the immunization assessments so that self-insured companies as well as fully insured companies pay the assessment to fund the Childhood and Adult Immunization Program and the Children's Health Program Account.

For a full list of Chamber policy priorities visit www.providencechamber.com