Blazejewski, Pearson student loan tax credit bill included in amended budget
Bill aimed at economic development, education in STEM fields
STATE HOUSE – Legislation proposed by Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski and Sen. Ryan W. Pearson to create a tax credit program to help pay the student loans of Rhode Islanders working in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) sectors has been included in the state budget bill approved by the House Finance Committee yesterday.
The two legislators introduced the measure as a means of keeping talented, educated people in Rhode Island, encouraging students to pursue STEM careers and bolstering the state’s workforce to attract good employers in growing fields.
“Technology, scientific research and development and other STEM fields are some of the most promising areas of growth for our economy. We want to attract growing companies in those sectors, and one element we need is a workforce that has the appropriate educational background. This program will help steer students toward rewarding careers in the STEM fields while also serving as an economic development tool for the state,” said Representative Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence).
The initiative, titled the “Stay Invested in Rhode Island Wavemaker Fellowship” program, would be administered by the Commerce Corporation and would allow employees working in the STEM sector to apply for state tax credits for payments on their student loans for as many as four years. The credits would be capped at $1,000 a year for those with an associate’s degree, $4,000 for those with a bachelor’s and $6,000 for those with post-graduate degrees. The credit may be carried over for up to four years. To qualify, a taxpayer must be a full-time employee of a Rhode Island-based company working in life, natural or environmental sciences; computer, information or software technology; advanced mathematics or finance; engineering; industrial design or another commercially related design field; or medicine or medical device technology.
“In addition to enticing companies in up-and-coming sectors to come to Rhode Island and encouraging Rhode Islanders to train for careers in those fields, this program will also help people — whether they are just starting out or went back to school midcareer to better their employability — to get some relief from student loan debt, which can be a big obstacle. Having that weight off their shoulders for the first few years of their new career will help them get on their feet and will also free up some of their income so they can buy the goods and services they need, pumping more money into our local economy,” said Senator Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln.) “We’re excited that this idea is moving forward, because it can help both our economy and our citizens get ahead.”
The House Finance Committee amended the state budget bill (2015-H 5900A), which is scheduled to go before the House of Representatives Tuesday, with language from the legislation Senator Pearson and Representative Blazejewski originally proposed in their legislation (2015-S 0122, 2015-H 6089). The original legislation is cosponsored in the House by Rep. Shelby Maldonado (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls), Rep. Aaron Regunberg (D-Dist. 4, Providence), Rep. Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence) and Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick). Senate cosponsors include Sen. Adam J. Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick), Sen. Nicholas D. Kettle (R-Dist. 21, Coventry, Foster, Scituate, West Greenwich), Sen. Roger A. Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland) and Sen. Paul V. Jabour (D-Dist. 5, Providence).
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903