Rep. Cotter, Sen. Ujifusa submit bill raising ‘circuit breaker’ tax credit to help seniors, those with disabilities

 

STATE HOUSE – Sen. Linda L. Ujifusa and Rep. Megan Cotter are sponsoring a bill to provide relief to some of the state’s most vulnerable households by raising the eligibility limit and the maximum credit for the “circuit breaker” tax credit, which benefits low-income seniors and individuals with disabilities.

“Rhode Islanders with low incomes are bearing the heaviest burdens of our housing crisis, as well as paying a far greater share of their income under our regressive tax structure. For those with fixed incomes, such as seniors and people with disabilities, higher housing costs can mean they are going without other necessities to keep a roof over their heads. They need relief. Raising the limits on the circuit breaker credit is a very effective, targeted way to help many of the households who are facing the greatest housing cost burdens,” said Senator Ujifusa (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth Bristol).

The circuit breaker credit program provides an income tax credit to low-income Rhode Island homeowners and renters who are over 65 or disabled, equal to the amount that their property tax exceeds a certain percent of their income. That percent ranges from 3 to 6 percent, based on household income. In the case of renters, a figure representing 20 percent of their annual rent is used in the place of property tax in the calculation.

Currently, the program is limited to households with annual incomes of $35,000 or less, and the credit is limited to $600.

The legislation Representative Cotter and Senator Ujifusa have introduced (2024-H 7208, 2024-S 2063) would raise the income limit to $50,000 and raise the maximum credit to $850.

Massachusetts has a circuit breaker tax credit program for seniors with much higher limits: Eligibility includes those with incomes as high as $103,000 for couples filing jointly, and up to $2,590 can be claimed. While the sponsors would like to see higher limits in Rhode Island, they chose a level that they believe stands a better chance of passage given current budget limitations.

The sponsors say the dramatic rise in housing costs necessitates an increase to the limits of the program.

“We are at a point where there are hardly any communities in our state where a household making $50,000 can afford an average two-bedroom apartment. People trying to make ends meet on that level of income need more help. Extending the circuit breaker credit to more of them should absolutely be part our state’s strategy for addressing our housing affordability crisis,” said Representative Cotter (D-Dist. 39, Exeter, Richmond, Hopkinton).

“With the median home price in Rhode Island doubling in the last five years, housing has risen to be one of the top issues concerning our older population. Rhode Island property taxes are some of the highest in the nation and are especially burdensome for the many older Rhode Islanders who rely on fixed-incomes and for those on Social Security Disability. Census data shows 32% of older Rhode Island home owners and 52% of those who rent are paying more than 30% of their income for housing costs,” said Senior Agenda Coalition Policy Director Maureen Maigret. “Increasing the circuit breaker tax credit or refund is a simple way to ease the housing cost burdens for them.”

 

A New York appeals court is rejecting Donald Trump's request to pause the enforcement of the civil fraud penalty he's facing. Trump's legal team had argued the judgement made it "impossible" to secure a bond covering the full amount of 454-million. His lawyers instead offered to put up a 100-million dollar bond. An appellate judge, however, ruled that Trump must cough up the full amount. But he did freeze the ban on Trump and his adult sons from running their business in New York, which could enable the former president to access some funds. This as Trump appeals the judgement finding him liable for fraudulently inflating his net worth on financial statements.        The impeachment inquiry into President Biden is moving into its next phase. House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer says it involves a public hearing including testimony from the president's son, Hunter Biden. Hunter gave a deposition to lawmakers today behind closed doors, in which he denied his father was ever involved in his business ventures. Comer said Hunter's testimony included claims that contradicted testimony from other witnesses. Republicans have accused Biden of carrying out an influence peddling scheme while serving as vice president.        President Biden's doctor says he's fit to serve as president. Biden underwent a routine physical today at Walter Reed. A summary from doctors says there are "no new concerns" from this year's physical. The president, however, did not take a cognitive test, as the White House says doctors said it was not necessary. This comes as Biden faces questions about his age and ability to serve a second term. Recent polls have shown a large majority of Americans believe he's too old to serve in office.        The Supreme Court appears to be torn over a challenge to the gun accessory "bump stocks." Bump stocks allow a semi auto rifle to fire more quickly. A ban on the accessory was imposed by the Trump administration in 2017 after the Las Vegas mass shooting, where a shooter used bump stock-equipped guns to kill dozens at a country music festival. In oral arguments today, both liberal and conservatives justices asked questions that indicate they believe it's possible an older law aimed to ban machine guns could also include bump stocks. Whether or not there's a majority that will reach that conclusion remains unclear.       "Dune: Part Two" is looking to jump start the box office this weekend. The film is expected to bring in 170-million-dollars worldwide in its first weekend in theaters. It's currently projected to make around 80-million-dollars domestically in its debut in theaters. 2021's "Dune" opened with 41-million-dollars in its first weekend, but it also released on HBO Max the same day it hit the big screen.       Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher is calling the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame "a load of bollocks." Oasis is one of this year's nominees for induction into the Rock Hall, along with Ozzy Osbourne, Foreigner and other famous rockers. The nominees also include Mariah Carey and hip-hop groups Eric B. & Rakim and A Tribe Called Quest, which triggered the outspoken Oasis singer. In a recent interview, Gallagher said, "As much as I love Mariah Carey and all that," it's "like putting me in the rap hall of fame." He continued, saying "I've done more for rock n' roll than half of them clowns." The Rock Hall Class of '24 will be announced in late April.