On Thursday I was proud to join a group of state representatives to announce our collective support for the “Fair Shot Agenda,” a package of four legislative solutions they propose to support working families and address the growing gap between the wealthy and the middle class.
“In the aftermath of the November elections and in the midst of decades of economic policy that has continually tilted the scales toward the wealthy and large corporations, a group of House Democrats came together to craft an economic agenda that gives voice to the many, many working Rhode Islanders who believe their government has been unresponsive to their struggles,” said Rep. Gregg Amore (D-East Providence). “Today we are here to announce that, together, we will work this session on this concrete agenda to make sure that every Rhode Islander has an opportunity to succeed.” The four pieces of the Fair Shot Agenda consist of earned paid sick days, a $15 minimum wage, school building repairs, and a fairer tax system that reduces the car tax for working families by asking the wealthiest Rhode Islanders to pay their fair share.
“The idea behind this agenda is simple: everyone deserves a fair shot at a decent life. You shouldn’t get a shortcut just because you were born rich, and you shouldn’t get shut out just because you weren’t,” said Rep. Aaron Regunberg (D-Providence). “Our state government can be the vehicle that makes sure everyone gets that fair shot, and one way we can do that is through earned paid sick days. Every worker should be able to take a day off work when they’re sick or when their kid is sick. That’s it - it’s not complicated. The fact that so many of our neighbors have to go to work sick, have to tell their kids to wait in the school nurse’s office with a fever for the next 5 hours because they can’t leave work to pick them up early - that reality should be morally unacceptable to all of us. And this year, we plan to change it.”
Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (D-Providence), who has been a fierce advocate of “Fight for $15,” explained why legislators feel so strongly about this piece of the agenda. “No Rhode Islander who works full time should live in poverty. Yet we know that many of our constituents, despite working hard every day, remain stuck in poverty. That’s not right. Legislation to increase the minimum wage to a $15 per hour living wage by 2022, including a first step to $11 this year, will help working families get by. When families in my district have a little more money in their paycheck, they can put food on the table, they can pay their bills, they can care for their children. And every cent that our minimum wage workers make is put right back into the local economy, which helps us all.”
The legislators’ agenda also stressed the need for the state to increase its investment in repairing public school buildings. “Every day we are sending our children to school in buildings that do not meet the most basic criteria of being safe, warm and dry,” said Rep. Katherine Kazarian (D-East Providence). “There are schools where buckets are placed to catch leaks in the halls when it rains. There are schools that lack heat in the winter. There are schools where mold and asbestos are a constant threat to the health of our children and our teachers. My colleagues and I who support the Fair Shot Agenda are no longer willing to sit by and wait, and we will fight with everything we’ve got to secure the greater state investment that is desperately needed.”
The fourth piece of the legislative package includes a plan to reduce the car tax to create a system that better balances middle class and wealthier families. “Over the course of time our tax system has been redesigned to benefit the wealthy by shifting the tax burden onto working families,” said Rep. Jean Philippe Barros (D-Pawtucket). “We know that in recent years, most new income is going to the top 1%. To change this, we need a fairer tax system - one that does not ask the most from working families who least can afford it. That’s why the Fair Shot Agenda proposes to reduce the regressive car tax for the middle class in what we believe is the most responsible way, by asking the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share.”
The representatives who gathered in the House Lounge Thursday committed to working together to advocate for each of the Fair Shot Agenda’s four policy proposals over the coming months.