opinion Newport Rhode Island

For far too long, Rhode Island has remained an outlier in the nation in how we treat our honored veterans because we are one of the few states that taxes the income on veterans’ pensions.  Massachusetts doesn’t and neither does Connecticut.  Truth be told, Rhode Island is one of only four states in the nation that taxes military pensions.

Thankfully, our state has the opportunity to right this wrong by supporting and enacting the budget proposal to finally exempt veterans’ pensions from taxation over the next five years.  Representative Vella-Wilkinson has also introduced legislation to phase out the income tax on military service pensions by 2027 in order to further stress the need of this crucial tax reform proposal.

For decades, veterans and their advocates have attempted to deliver the tax relief that our brave veterans have earned and deserve.  These are the men and women who have put themselves in harm’s way, sacrificed precious time with their families and friends, and who have put the well-being and safety of others before themselves so that the rest of us can live a life of freedom and prosperity.
Simply put, our veterans have earned every cent of their military pensions and that money should stay in their pockets and bank accounts where it rightfully belongs.

Although cost has always been used as the excuse to not give our veterans the tax relief they deserve, with Rhode Island flush with federal dollars, now is the time to show our respect and gratitude toward our veterans with this needed tax relief.  Data has shown us that how a state treats its veterans and their pensions contributes greatly to where our veterans decide to settle down after their service. 
When accounting for the economic activity that our veterans produce in their communities, Rhode Island will see a far greater beneficial economic impact by drawing in, and keeping, veterans within our borders as opposed to continuing to tax their pensions for a short-term revenue gain.

And by phasing out the income tax on veterans’ pensions over five years, this proposal will allow the state to adequately prepare for the small loss in revenue while also finally bringing Rhode Island in line with how the majority of the country treats our veterans and their pensions.

We thank the supporters and advocates for this long-overdue tax reform and we will be strongly advocating for its passage in the General Assembly.  But more importantly, thank you to our veterans.  Thank you for your dedication, bravery and sacrifices.  Hopefully this year, we can show you all how much your service has meant to the state through the well-deserved tax relief that was earned keeping us all safe and free.

Rep. Julie A. Casimiro, a Democrat, represents District 31 in North Kingstown and Exeter.  Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson, a Democrat and a retired Navy officer, represents District 21 in Warwick.  Representatives Casimiro and Vella-Wilkinson both serve on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.  Rep. Thomas E. Noret, a Democrat and veteran of the Rhode Island Air National Guard, represents District 25 in Coventry and West Warwick.