PROVIDENCE — On the Rhode Island Report podcast, state Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio said he opposes raising the income tax rate for the richest Rhode Islanders, saying he fears they would move elsewhere.
Ruggerio, a North Providence Democrat, previously co-sponsored legislation that slashed the top marginal income tax rate from 9.9 percent to 5.99 percent. And he said he is against proposals, made in the House and Senate last session, to raise the top rate to 8.99 percent on income of more than $475,000, essentially the top 1 percent of taxpayers.
“I think we need a fairer tax code,” Ruggerio said. “However, I’m not supportive of raising taxes at this point. I think that some of the people in the higher salaries, I don’t want to lose them in this state. That has happened before in the past.”
He said he fears that lot of the state’s highest earners would move out if Rhode Island raised that top income tax rate. “And look, everyone has learned how to operate remotely as a result of the coronavirus,” he said. “I think that a lot of people would possibly move out if that was the case.”
Ruggerio, who was taking part in his first podcast, said one of the Senate leadership team’s top priorities will be a $250 million bond proposal for school construction.
“We’ve seen some of the good things that have happened with school construction throughout the state, especially the East Providence High School, which is an absolute state-of-the-art facility that I think the public will be immensely proud of,” he said.
He noted that Central Falls is planning to build a new high school, and that Pawtucket officials moved ahead with plans to tear down McCoy Stadium and build a new consolidated Pawtucket high school. The Pawtucket project, which would cost an estimated $302.5 million, would require General Assembly to approve another school bond item, which would then require approval by Pawtucket voters.
Ruggerio said he supports the Pawtucket plan. “They are in dire need of a new facility,” he said. “I think that’s a great site for that. I think that the site has to be worked on a little. I think there’s some remediation that has to be involved, but I think that’s a great site for that particular building.”
Ruggerio said the Senate plans to meet in its State House chambers when the 2022 legislative session begins on Jan. 4, but he said there’s a chance the latest surge in COVID-19 cases will push the Senate back to Rhode Island College, where it met last session.
“Priority one for me is to keep my colleagues in the Senate safe, along with the staff,” he said. “We had a very successful legislative session last year. We did a lot of things, and things worked out very well even though we were at a different location. Ideally, we’d like to stay at the State House, but I’m not sure if that’s doable. It depends on the coronavirus.”
Hear more by downloading the latest episode of Rhode Island Report, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts, and other podcasting platforms, or listen in the player above.