Grow Smart Rhode Island applauds the Governor and the General Assembly for their leadership this year on behalf of several worthwhile investments in our state’s future prosperity. These include a more sustainable approach to funding Rhode Island’s mass transit system, approval of the South Street Power Station redevelopment project that will include a joint URI/Rhode Island College nursing school complex, and ballot measures to provide funding for development of new transit hubs, preservation of public historic buildings, capital improvements to major cultural and arts facilities throughout the state, brownfield clean-up, acquiring and upgrading local recreation facilities and the preservation of farmland.
However, the one glaring omission from the adopted budget is any extension of funding for the State Historic Tax Credit program.
Governor Chafee proposed to extend the Historic Tax Credit Program with $52 million dollars in additional funding. Failure of new funding approval does not mean that the Historic Tax Credit program has been eliminated, but that it will lack the resources to accommodate many of the 27 projects currently on the program’s waiting list or any additional projects that apply in the coming months. As a result we fear that a lot of significant economic investment that was poised to materialize in the state’s urban and town centers will fail to do so. This will represent a major missed economic opportunity for Rhode Island.
Joint Resolution creating a 13-member special legislative commission to “make a comprehensive study and issue findings regarding the challenges facing commercial development and the redevelopment of historic buildings in Rhode Island; the benefits of rehabilitating these buildings; and the best ways to spur the buildings’ reuse when it is in the best interest of the state.”
A bold proposal to stimulate economic and community (re)development in our distressed urban communities.
Investment in Joint Brown U., RIC, URI Education Center H-7133 – Article 4, Section 8 | PASSED
Nationally and in Rhode Island, a 21st century mass transit system is becoming increasingly important to the economic prosperity of metropolitan areas. The inclusion of additional operating funds for RIPTA in Budget Article 21, while not completely sufficient to accommodate RIPTA’s growing use, is an essential step in the right direction, making our transit system more fiscally sustainable. It provides 5% of proceeds from the Rhode Island Highway Maintenance Account beginning with $2.5M in FY2016 and increasing over time to $4.4M by FY2019. In addition, the Budget includes RIPTA debt service forgiveness of $1.8M in FY2015.
The FY-2015 budget included $100,000 in second-year funding for the Local Agriculture and Seafood Act grant program which assists small farmers and fishermen with costs of initiatives or equipment needed to expand production and marketing. In the first year of the program, an innovative public-private partnership matched state funding with additional private foundation funding to double the size of the grant pool, and it is hoped that the FY-2015 state funding will again leverage private funding.
Provision for future year LASA funding not included in Clean Water, Open Space and Healthy Communities Bond Issue.
Act requires that as of January 1, 2016, large commercial operations and higher educational institutions that generate at least 104 tons per year of organic waste materials and that are located within 15 miles of an authorized composting facility or anaerobic digestion facility must divert their food residuals to a recycling facility.
Affirms the importance of the Division of Agriculture’s work to Rhode Island’s economy, environment and public health by providing that the chief of the Division of Agriculture shall report directly to the Director of the Department of Environmental Management.
Act recognizes the mixed use of farms and farmlands for non-agricultural enterprises (e.g., retail sales, tours, classes, hay rides, corn mazes and special events) as a “valuable and viable means of contributing to the preservation of agriculture” while at the same time retaining the authority of municipalities to regulate such enterprises and stipulating that the protections of the Right to Farm Act do not apply to such non-agricultural enterprises.
Act reduces the Rhode Island earned income tax credit from 25% to 10% of the federal earned income tax credit but increases the percentage of the Rhode Island credit that is refundable from 15% to 100%. This Act increases low-income Rhode Islanders’ access to food by increasing their incomes.
BALLOT MEASURES SUBJECT TO VOTER APPROVAL
Transit Infrastructure ($35M)
$35M Transit Hubs Bond Issue to be placed on ballot. Would fund enhancements and renovations to mass transit hub infrastructure throughout Rhode Island. Project would improve the rider experience, accommodate ridership growth, better integrate RIPTA service with MBTA commuter and Amtrak interstate rail service and facilitate plans for revitalization of Kennedy Plaza as a vibrant transportation, recreational and community center.
Clean Water, Open Space and Healthy Communities Proposal ($53M)
Creative and Cultural Economy Bond ($35)
Includes $ 5 million dollars in renewed funding for the State Historic Preservation Grant Program. This program provides funding to rehabilitate historic public buildings such as museums and town halls that are not eligible for the State Historic Tax Credit.