The 2014 legislative budget is heavy in economic development and reform promises to provide Rhode Islanders with hope for signs of a recovering economy through an array of mechanisms designed to boost growth and opportunity in local job markets and development projects.
Several bills representing a primary means of economic advancement heralded by House and Senate leadership touch upon the need to bring business back to the Ocean State and create foundational support for economic stimulus through workforce development.
The state’s Economic Development Corporation is due for a complete overhaul, receiving a shiny new name as the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation. Transparency and accountability have replaced standard operating procedures due to the 38 Studios debacle and the newly named quasi-public agency has also garnered a “new” home with a new top dog, housed under the “new” Executive Office of Commerce.
A Council of Economic Advisors has been established to advise the governor as to economic data. Consisting of nine members chosen from the public and private sectors, the council will guide and inform the governor as to overall commerce and economic development policy.
Beginning in 2015, long-term planning is on the horizon with the governor’s office being required to offer a plan for the state’s economy, as there was apparently no such requirement in the past.
As an aide to small businesses, bi-weekly pay legislation was passed for those businesses whose average payroll exceeds 200 percent of minimum wage.
Construction, development and historic preservation are imminent with the reinstatement of the Historic Preservation Tax Credit Fund. Portioning out $34 million in previously approved and unused funding for projects that support Rhode Island’s unique historic architectural landscape, the credits also hold hope for job growth, rebirth of the state’s struggling construction industry and a means to create much needed affordable housing.
Economic development, transparency, reform and accountability to the people of Rhode Island – sounds like another election is right around the corner.