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7/1/2015 With budget signing, Blazejewski, Pearson student loan tax credit enacted
Program aimed at economic development, education in STEM fields
STATE HOUSE – Legislation proposed by Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski and Sen. Ryan W. Pearson creating a tax credit program to help pay the student loans of Rhode Islanders working in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) sectors was included in the state budget bill signed into law 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. The House Finance Committee later included their legislation (2015-S 0122, 2015-H 6089) as part of its amendments to the budget bill (2015-H 5900Aaa) which passed the General Assembly in June and was signed by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo yesterday.

“In order to attract the companies in the growing sectors of technology, scientific research and development and other STEM fields, we need a strong workforce trained in those areas. This program will encourage students to pursue 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 encouraging companies in growing fields to come to Rhode Island and helping Rhode Islanders to train for careers in those fields, this program will also help to relieve participants – both young people and those who go back to school to pursue a new career – from the heavy burdens of 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 that portion 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.”

Senator Pearson’s and Representative Blazejewski’s original legislation was 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), and in the Senate by 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
(401) 222-1923