State Rep. Joseph M. McNamara, D-Warwick, was first elected to the Legislature in 1994. He is chairman of the Health, Education and Welfare Committee. Rep. McNamara is a retired educator who was director of the Pawtucket School Department’s Alternative Learning Program.
He has a master’s degree in education from Providence College, so his background in education offers good perspective for legislation he introduced, House Bill 5134, The Rhode Island College Internship Tax Credit Act. The bill was introduced in January and is currently in the House Finance Committee.
PBN: Why did you introduce the legislation “The Rhode Island College Internship Tax Credit Act,” which is House Bill 5134?
MCNAMARA: This is a product of a work group – a partnership – that includes higher education officials and members of the business community. One of the statements we continually hear from business leaders is there is a lack of highly skilled and trained individuals in this state. This act is aimed at supporting a supply line of highly-trained individuals and to have businesses that are aligned with our institutions of higher education, and to develop those relationships that benefit not only our students but our businesses. It gives students an incentive to stay in our state and gives businesses an incentive to hire them.
PBN: There have been a lot of efforts made to close the skills gap. Is this bill different in some way?
MCNAMARA: It is different. It speaks to our post-secondary education system. It is aligning our institutions of higher education with the needs of our current workforce and the need for work skills development in Rhode Island.
PBN: Doesn’t this bill, basically, propose what community colleges provide, which workforce training?
MCNAMARA: It expands that and we’re offering a tax credit to businesses who participate. And beyond getting some tax relief, the businesses are developing a relationship with higher education institutions in our state.
PBN: How will this program be funded? Will there be a cost to businesses? How much will the tax credit be?
MCNAMARA: The funds allocated to this program consist of federal, state and private grants and the availability of these funds will determine the amount of tax credit for internships. It will be capped for the first year of the program. For example, if there’s a million dollars available, then that will be the cap for that specific year. The tax credit will be determined by the Department of Labor and Training working in conjunction with the Department of Higher Education.
PBN: Is the legislation aimed at any particular sector of business?
MCNAMARA: The tax credit can benefit small and medium-size businesses. I’ve spoken to some high tech manufacturers in my district. I think the tax incentive will be very appealing to some of our smaller-business owners who may not have participated, as the larger corporations tend to have internship programs.