Michael Sabitoni

CONSTRUCTION HAS BEEN PROMINENT over the last few years in Providence, and local officials had been giving developers tax breaks to spur further building in Rhode Island’s capital city. But, while development has increased, reporting accountability from developers has decreased.

Enter Michael Sabitoni, the president of the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council and chairman of the Providence Rises Together Coalition. He is helping craft new language in the city’s proposed Tax Stabilization Investment Act that calls for all proposed tax stabilization agreements to go before the City Council for review and approval.

Sabitoni said a key problem with Providence’s current TSA policy is that developers are ignoring reporting requirements, citing an audit from 2017 in which there was a history of “widespread noncompliance” among 54 developers who received TSAs. That audit, he said, also uncovered reporting errors, wage theft, missed administrative payments and worker misclassification.Sabitoni said the proposed reforms to the city’s TSA program will call for stronger reporting requirements, begin a building apprenticeship program, guarantee livable-wage standards during and after construction, and require investments in minority- and women-owned businesses.

“There is strong support on the [City Council] for reforms, a coalition that is broader than ever and the community at large is committed to reform these agreements for the greater good,” Sabitoni said. “Practical reforms like those proposed will continue to allow TSA policies to benefit developers but in a more equitable way benefiting the public good.”

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