Senate backs I-195 tax break bill; status in House bleak

The Rhode Island State House in Providence.

This report has been updated.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Rhode Island Senate on Tuesday approved legislation that would grant special tax deals to developers on the vacant I-195 land, but the proposal has yet to win the support of House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello.

The Senate voted 34-2 to support a revised version of the bill that was introduced earlier this month by Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio, incorporating suggestions from the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission and Providence City Councilman David Salvatore.

Under the proposal, developers on the I-195 land would receive a 20-year tax break. The committee added language that allow new projects on land that straddles the I-195 land to qualify for the tax break, so long as at least 25% of the property falls in the I-195 land. That proposal came from recommendations made by the I-195 Commission.

The legislation also requires any project worth at least $10 million to enter into a “community workforce agreement” with the I-195 Commission, That agreement would require developers to make a “good faith effort” to hire local contractors and subcontractors and use city and state vendors.

While the bill cruised through the Senate, its status in the House is another question.

On Tuesday Mattiello joined Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, City Council President Luis Aponte in opposing the legislation, according to Providence Business News. House spokesman Larry Berman said no version of the bill has been introduced in the House.

Elorza and Aponte have put forth their own city ordinance for tax-stabilization agreements on the I-195 land. That proposal would allow developers of projects valued above $10 million to receive a 13-year tax-stabilization agreement from the city, paying only the base land tax for the first three years of the deal and then gradually phasing in property tax payments over the following decade. A larger project could apply for seven additional years of tax stabilization, but that would have to be approved by the council.

The City Council Finance Committee has scheduled a public hearing on the proposal for June 30.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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