I have noticed that House Finance Representatives Azzinaro, Kennedy, Vella-Wilkinson, Tobon, and McLaughlin proposed H-5395 in February 2019, which , if passed and approved without conditions, would exempt from taxation the first $25,000 of military retired pay of veterans such as myself who are over 60 years of age. I applaud their proposal and thoughtfulness of veterans.
The first effort I am aware of whereby a proposed House Bill was introduced to exempt military retiree pay from RI state taxes was in 2006 by Senator Walter S. Felag Jr., whom I also applaud. Others in the RI legislature have submitted variations of this proposal over several years, and I also applaud them. On each occasion every proposed bill regarding exempting military retiree pay from RI state taxes has been recommended by the committee “for further study,” thereby entering and continuing to languish in “study” purgatory. A proposal that benefits veterans with compensation we earned and is well-deserved that must be “studied” for more than a decade is frustrating.
There are only eight (8) states that tax military retirement pension without any form of special considerations, and Rhode Island is one. Thirteen (13) states provide special provisions or other considerations; twenty (20) states do not tax military retirement income (including Massachusetts); and nine (9) do not tax military retirement income as those states have no income tax requirement. With many agencies devoted to monitoring and ranking states on an annual basis in a multitude of categories, I have researched at least a dozen of them and have found the following few of particular interest with respect to Rhode Island for military retirees…for 2019:
- Wallethub.com ranks RI 34th best (or the 17th worst) out of 50 states and the District of Columbia for military retirees.
- VeteransAid.org ranks RI 51st best (or the #1 worst state) out 50 states and the District of Columbia for military retirees.
- TheAtlantic.com ranks RI 43rd best (or 8th worst) out of 50 states and the District of Columbia for military retirees.
- GI Jobs ranks RI 44th best (or 7th worst) out of 50 states and the District of Columbia for military retirees.
As I researched the best and worst states to retire in, in general, Rhode Island rankings are even more grim. As I approach the age of 65 later this year, on the threshold of ultimate retirement, I would be extremely disappointed if this proposed bill, as with other similar proposals in past years, continues to languish in a status of “further study” for another year as it has for over a decade.
The best gift of gratitude RI can give its veterans is to let us “keep” what we earned and deserve as Massachusetts and a multitude of other states provide — over the age of 60 and to all veterans in general regardless of age. The kind consideration of the House passing this Bill effective on 1 January 2020 would be a good start and would be appreciated by those of us who deserve such consideration.
John Cefali is a retired master sergeant with the United States Air Force.