Advocacy & Economic Development
Advocacy & Economic Development
Message to Members: We've got your back.
As the advocate for growing and protecting the business community, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce has a loud voice in every public policy issue of interest to industry today. No debate of any substance is complete until the Chamber weighs in on behalf of our members. We have the largest team of full-time lobbyists at the ready and are poised to pounce on anything that seems like it would hurt Rhode Island's economic development potential. Here are some concrete examples of how the Chamber made a difference at the State House in 2016 and what it means to your business:
- Since Rhode Island’s unemployment insurance tax ranks among the highest in the nation, we pushed to change the way the tax is applied to employers. The unemployment insurance reforms of 2016 created two new rates for the lowest utilizers of the UI system, without raising the top rate for the highest utilizers. In addition, as the amount of reserves in the unemployment insurance program increases, all employers will see additional rate reductions. What's it mean to you? If you have a stable workforce, your payroll taxes will go down.
Newport Grand Relocation to Tiverton:
- As Massachusetts moves forward with expanded casino gaming, the future of Rhode Island’s gaming sector will be an even more significant factor in how the state manages its short and long-term budget planning. Given the serious budget implications for the state, the Chamber was active in supporting a referendum on the 2016 statewide ballot in November for moving Newport Grand to Tiverton and for adding table games. What's it mean to you? Protecting casino revenue is vitally important. If revenue plummets, your business may be asked to pay more in taxes.
Education and Workforce Development:
- The Chamber supported bills to allow for wage reimbursement for non-trade apprenticeships to keep talented students from leaving Rhode Island upon graduation. What's it mean to you? The Chamber is working to improve the talent pipeline for employers in a wide range of new fields and making training programs more affordable for your business.
Competitive Tax Code:
- In what is perhaps our signature issue, the Chamber continues to drive the debate to create a competitive tax code for business. The FY 2017 Budget reduced the $450 minimum corporate tax to $400. Further, we blocked moves to raise what is now the lowest overall corporate income tax rate in New England. What's it mean to you? Your corporate tax bill will go down.
Transportation Infrastructure Funding:
- The condition of Rhode Island’s roads and bridges is a significant detriment to the state’s business climate and hinders business retention and attraction efforts. Addressing our transportation infrastructure with a sense of urgency is required in order for Rhode Island to be more competitive. The Chamber supported the Rhode Works legislation to provide funding to repair and maintain Rhode Island’s roads and bridges. What's it mean to you? Improved roads and bridges will be an economic generator for industry in Rhode Island. The bulk of the burden will be borne by heavy out-of-state users that already pay tolls up and down the East Coast. Your fleet of automobiles and light trucks will not be tolled.
- The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce supported the Governor’s Economic Development plan as presented in the FY 2017 Budget.
- Carves out I-195 project from maximum tax credit of 30% of the total project cost, allowing for greater tax credits for projects in the I-195 district.
- Caps Rebuild RI Tax Credits at $150 million.
- Creates Air Service Development Fund to incentivize additional flights to and from T.F. Green Airport.
What's it mean to you? Rhode Island now has potent tools in the tools box to recruit new industry, new employers and new taxpayers to spread the burden of government overhead.
- The Chamber opposed multiple employer mandates, which would have created onerous requirements for businesses operating in Rhode Island. No employer mandates were enacted this session.
- Paid Sick Leave
- Legislation was introduced that would have required employers provide employees with one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, with a maximum accrual per year of 56 hours. The legislation was not enacted.
- Gender Pay Equity
- The legislation would have required equal pay for “substantially similar” work, which would be determined after examining a composite of factors. Only California has a similar law, which has not yet been tested in California courts. The legislation was not enacted.
- Minimum Wage Increase
- Various bills were introduced to increase the minimum wage to varying dollar amounts, with the highest proposal being $11/hour. No minimum wage increase was enacted.
- Temporary Caregiver Insurance Expansion
- Legislation would have expanded the temporary caregiver insurance program to allow employees to take leave to care for siblings and grandchildren. The legislation did not pass.
- Temporary Disability Insurance Expansion
- The legislation would have increased the maximum total amount of benefits per employee per year to 32 times the weekly benefit rate, up from the current maximum of 30 times the weekly benefit rate. The legislation was not enacted.
- State-Run IRA Program
- The legislation would have allowed employees to invest 3% of their wages in a state run IRA program to be administered by the Department of Labor and Training. The legislation was not enacted.
- Predictive Scheduling
- Legislation would have required employers to give all employees 14 days notice of employees’ work schedules or be required to pay any employees receiving less than 14 days notice the lesser of four hours of pay or their expected wages for the changed shift. The legislation did not pass.
- Paid Sick Leave
Temporary Disability Insurance:
- As one of the few states in this country with a state-run temporary disability insurance program, the Chamber supported common sense reforms that would allow an employee to opt out of the state-run TDI program if the employee was already covered by a private temporary disability insurance policy. The bills were opposed by labor and groups concerned with the continued viability of the temporary caregiver insurance program, which is funded by the TDI tax and the inability for employees to find similar insurance coverage in the private market. The bills were not enacted.
What's it mean to you? Your labor costs will be stable, reasonable and in line with most other states' regulatory environment.
How to connect to pro-business activism?
Through grassroots activism and coordinated advocacy efforts, the GPCC is working to make Rhode Island a better place to live, work and conduct business. Our policy team serves as a liaison between Chamber members and elected officials to ensure the business perspective is represented at local, state and federal levels. This can be difficult work, but be assured that the Chamber has your back.
A proof point on how we positively connect the Statehouse and the business community is VoterVoice. It's our online advocacy tool that ensures the voice of business is being heard at the Rhode Island State House. It provides members with a direct line to deliver critical messages surrounding your policy priorities. Sign up for VoterVoice today and be a GPCC activist.