PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Political Cooperative this week announced that three new candidates have joined the organization, bringing its total number of candidates to 17.

The new candidates are Lenny Cioe, running for Senate District 4 (Providence and North Providence) against Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, Adamaris Villar running for Central Falls City Council Ward 2, and Rep. Moira Walsh running for re-election for House District 3.

"As a nurse, I have witnessed our health care system abandon the most vulnerable while we give tax breaks to the rich," said Cioe. "I promise to fight for better health care, stronger schools, and an economy that works for everybody.”

The group this week released two detailed policy proposals. The first is for a tax hike on individuals making more than $467,700 each year, or the top 1 percent. This proposal would generate more than $170 million in annual revenue to help meet the state's critical needs in education, housing, health care, and clean energy, say leaders of the group. The second is a proposal to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour as Massachusetts and Connecticut have done.

The group also announced that the 13 General Assembly incumbents that its candidates are challenging have taken a total of $640,000 in campaign donations from corporate PACs and corporate lobbyists since 2002, which is as far back as records extend. All of their candidates have pledged to take no money from corporate PACs or corporate lobbyists.

In 2006, the General Assembly passed a tax cut that, among other things, reduced the marginal tax rate for the highest-income individuals from 9.9 percent to 5.99 percent, states a release. The portion of that tax reduction that went to just the wealthiest 1 percent reduced state revenues by more than $1 billion over the past 13 years. The richest 1 percent of Rhode Islanders now pay a smaller share of their income in state and local taxes than the rest of the state’s residents, according to the Economic Progress Institute.

The RI Political Cooperative proposes to increase the top marginal tax rate by 5 percent on the wealthiest 1 percent of Rhode Islanders, or those making more than $467,700.

Former state senator Jeanine Calkin, a co-chair of the RI Political Cooperative and a candidate for the state senate in 2020, said, “our General Assembly has been corrupted by the influence of big campaign donations. That is why they serve the interests of corporations and the wealthiest at the expense of the people. It’s why they cut taxes on the richest 1 percent while refusing to pass a living wage of $15 per hour for working people.”

Jennifer Rourke, a co-chairwoman of the group who challenged a longtime Senate incumbent in 2018 and is running again in 2020, said, “instead of giving the wealthiest people in this state a billion dollar tax break, our leaders should have been fighting for working families – investing in better schools, healthcare, housing, roads and bridges and building the clean energy economy of the future. When RI Political Cooperative candidates are elected, that’s what we’re going to do.”

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