PROVIDENCE, RI – On Tuesday morning, the leaders of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council and Bryant University’s Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership convened an interactive webinar – “Reinvesting in Rhode Island After COVID” – to discuss the importance of state infrastructure and capital investing to recover economically and socially from the dire consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Strategic capital investment is a critical tool to accelerate economic and social recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, create opportunity for all, and build a more productive and stronger economy for the future. Studies show that Rhode Island underinvests in capital compared to other states.
“History tells us that Rhode Island does not recover or rebound quickly from economic downturns. Even before the pandemic, our state’s tax revenues, adjusted for inflation, still had not exceeded their peak in 2008, before the Great Recession,” said RIPEC President and CEO Michael DiBiase. “One of tools available to state government is to increase our borrowing and make capital investments to stimulate the local economy and speed the recovery. We believe it is not only responsible for the state to increase its borrowing, it is an imperative for the state to do so to respond aggressively to this grim economic emergency.”
“Strategic capital investments can accelerate opportunity and are an essential building block to incentivize job creation. Post-coronavirus infrastructure programs are about more than bricks and mortar, they include strategic investments in technology and an equity agenda.”
“As we plan for a post-COVID world, we will need to re-tool our economy to recover from the dire consequences of the pandemic. Public investments will be critical to implement a growth agenda. To recover and ignite economic growth and opportunity, state decision makers will need to utilize a full-range of investment tools. There is a time for fiscal conservatism, but this is not that time,” said Hassenfeld Institute Director Gary Sasse. “Strategic capital investments can accelerate opportunity and are an essential building block to incentivize job creation. Post-coronavirus infrastructure programs are about more than bricks and mortar, they include strategic investments in technology and an equity agenda.”
According to analysis by the Office of the General Treasurer, Rhode Island can afford additional debt service to invest in tangible capital projects that can include school construction, capital facilities for higher education, sustainable building upgrades and infrastructure resiliency to prepare for climate change, transportation and technology infrastructure, and affordable and workforce housing. While RIPEC and the Hassenfeld Institute each support borrowing for capital investment as part of Rhode Island’s COVID recovery plan, neither organization endorses borrowing to cover operating expenses or make up for revenue shortfalls.
“We must act boldly to create jobs for the thousands of Rhode Islanders facing long-term unemployment due to COVID-19,” said Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. “There is no shortage of COVID-response roles and shovel-ready infrastructure projects that can put people to work today, while making our economy more resilient in the long run.”
“We need to get Rhode Islanders back to work and break Rhode Island’s cycle of first in and last out of a recession. By making long-term investments that are essential for Rhode Island to withstand future financial or health threats, we will help make the Ocean State stronger than it was before the pandemic. This year’s investments will be made through an equity lens and focus on reinvesting in our communities,” said Brett Smiley, Rhode Island’s Director of Administration.
“COVID-19 has made clear that we need to do more to address disparities, and that starts with investments in infrastructure that will strengthen all communities in Rhode Island, especially those hit hardest by the pandemic,” said Angela Bannerman Ankoma, Executive Vice President of United Way of Rhode Island. “Making a long-term investment in public infrastructure, affordable and workforce housing, and educational facilities will help Rhode Island recover more quickly and will ensure that we are even better prepared to meet whatever challenge comes next. Now is the time to rethink our approach and reinvest in our future.”