The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity is all about families … we want to make the Ocean State a better place to call home: with greater job and educational opportunities today; increased hope for a bright and prosperous future; and more of our loved ones here with us and at our holiday family dinner tables.
Our state’s 47th rank on the national Family Prosperity Index is simply not acceptable.
As Rhode Island’s leading free-enterprise public policy research and advocacy organization, our Center is nonprofit and nonpartisan. The Center is dedicated to providing concerned citizens, the media, and public officials with empirical research data, while also advancing market-based solutions to major public policy issues in the state.
Balancing the debate, changing hearts and minds, and building a growing network of people who are informed and passionate about ideas that empower real families to raise their quality of life … are the vital roles that the Center for Freedom will play in the Ocean State!
Our Center is a proud member of the State Policy Network, a national group of state-based think-tanks fighting to help make government work for all Rhode Islanders, not just the special interest few.
Freedom is not just a catch phrase. Firm in our belief that freedom is indispensable to family well-being and prosperity, our Center will promote public policy solutions that will restore competitiveness to our state and change lives for the better, including:
Keep families whole by reforming incarceration, drug, or marriage penalties that drive couples apart
Encourage family members to live a more self-sufficient and independent lifestyle via reforms to public welfare programs so as to encourage work
Reduce educational achievement gaps now by empowering parents with expanded school choice
Increase prospects for meaningful work by fostering economic growth and natural wage increases
Aid families’ health security with increased access to affordable private health insurance
Keep money in working-poor and middle-class pockets with reduced taxes and fees and an earned income tax credit (EITC) increase for families
Protect workplace freedom by allowing employees a choice whether to be represented by labor unions
Create equal opportunities for all by ending oppressive licensing and regulation that inhibit entrepreneurial
Ensure corporations and wealthy Rhode Islanders remain or move here with reduction or elimination of the estate tax and
Give favoritism to none by opposing government handouts to corporations, unions, and other powerful insiders
In order to achieve these ends, public policy should provide incentives to work and to live a productive life.
Dennis Sheehan was born and raised in Newport, Rhode Island. He attended Thompson Junior High School, where his father taught, and graduated from Rogers High School. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Georgetown University in 1973 and received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1981.
Sheehan is Professor Emeritus at the Penn State University Smeal College of Business. He joined the faculty in 1992 as the Virginia and Louis Benzak Professor of Finance and became an emeritus professor in 2017. He previously taught in the business schools at Purdue University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Rochester.
Professor Sheehan’s research and teaching interests are in finance and statistics. His research has been in corporate finance with papers on topics such as the extent and function of managerial stock ownership, the role of active shareholders in monitoring the firm, and the pricing of seasoned equity offerings by investment banks. His research has been published in journals such as the Journal of Finance, the Journal of Financial Economics, and the Journal of Econometrics, and has also been written up in the Wall Street Journal and the Journal of Applied Corporate Finance.
At Penn State, Professor Sheehan taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in Finance. He has experience teaching executive development courses, having done so both in the United States and abroad for firms such as Chemical Bank, Citibank, and Xerox Corporation. In 2002, he helped start the Penn State Smeal Executive MBA program, and in 2005 he became the Associate Dean for MBA Programs; in 2009 he took on the role of Associate Dean for MBA and Executive Education. In June, 2011 he stepped down from his administrative position and returned to the Finance Department as a faculty member.
Upon retiring in 2017, Sheehan moved back home to Rhode Island to be closer to family. He lives in Middletown, where he is a volunteer for the Middletown Pension Fund Committee. He is also a volunteer tax preparer in the VITA/TCE program for low-income and elderly taxpayers. He is interested in researching policies that would help improve Rhode
J. Scott Moody is an economics adjunct scholar with the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity. Scott has worked as a Tax Policy Economist for over 12 years. He is the author, co-author and editor of over 100 studies and books. He has testified twice before the House Ways and Means Committee of the U.S. Congress. He has been interviewed by countless newspapers and radio and television stations. His work has appeared in Forbes, CNN Money, State Tax Notes, The New York Sun, Portland Press Herald, Hartford Courant, The Oklahoman and Albuquerque Journal. Mr. Moody is currently on the Board of Directors of The Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER, formerly ACCRA) and on the editorial board of the Journal for Applied Research in Economic Development co-published by the University of Southern Mississippi and C2ER.
Will Wray is a legal scholar with the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity. Will practices trial and appellate litigation in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Will has a degree in Middle East Studies from Brown University, where he was the editor-in-chief of the Brown Spectator. He now litigates at Donoghue Barrett & Singal. Prior to joining that firm, Will was an associate at Brown Rudnick LLP, where he represented clients in state and federal court. Will has interned with both the Honorable William E. Smith, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island, and the Honorable Paul A. Suttell, Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Will is the President of the Rhode Island Chapter of the Federalist Society.
Michael C. Cerullo, Jr., LMHC, is a substance abuse Adjunct Scholar with the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity. As a Psychotherapist in private practice, he evaluates and treats adolescent and emerging adults, including hundreds involved with DCYF; Family Court; the justice system; and residential rehab programs. A nationally certified trainer in Youth and Adult Mental Health First Aid, Mike also conducts continuing education workshops for the RIC Graduate School of Social Work; the RI Child Welfare Institute and the RI State Police. He is a former marketing executive and Exeter Town Councilman.
Gertrude F. Jones serves as an educational community outreach adviser for the Center. An innovative state leader who is recognized and celebrated as a businesswoman and community champion,
Gertrude has led and advocated for educational reform, financial operations, diversity initiatives, community organizing, business development, and marketing for many different organizations throughout the state of Rhode Island, while partnering with others nationwide. Following her post as Vice President of Community Relations of Lifespan, Rhode Island’s top health system comprised of four hospitals, Jones has continued to serve on many boards and commissions, including the United Way of Rhode Island, Johnson and Wales Corporation, Dorcas Place International Institute, Opportunity Industrialization Center of Rhode Island, Roger Williams Day Care Center, The National Coalition of 100 Black Women – Rhode Island Chapter (former President), and the RI Advisory Committee of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.
While serving as a member of the Providence School Board, Jones was chosen by the Commissioner of Education to represent RI as part of a team of Rhode Island officials to explore innovative educational practices in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Subsequently, she was elected as President of the Providence School Board, forming strong community support from the business, political, and educational sectors of Rhode Island. Jones’s passion for educational reform and child advocacy are hallmark characteristics of her strong leadership and unwavering commitment to equality and excellence. She continues to be involved in many community groups studying issues on education, civil rights, healthcare disparities, etc. Jones has held positions in the financial field including the former Old Stone Bank, Citizens Bank, Metropolitan Insurance Company and Brown University. Jones received her B.S. degree in Business Management from Johnson and Wales University. She currently resides in Rhode Island with her husband and is the proud mother of three daughters.
Dr. Matthew Ladner is an education scholar with the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity. He is also a Senior Fellow with the Foundation for Educational Choice and the Goldwater Institute and is the Senior Advisor of Policy and Research for the Foundation for Excellence in Education and previously served as director of state projects at the Alliance for School Choice. Ladner has written numerous studies on school choice, charter schools and special education reform and coauthored the Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress and Reform for the American Legislative Exchange Council. Ladner has testified before Congress, the United States Commission of Civil Rights and numerous state legislative committees.
Sean Parnell is president of Impact Policy Management (IPM), a Washington, DC-area full-service public policy firm, and manages political advocacy projects for free market and limited government causes. He currently operates the web site www.TheSelfPayPatient.com and is the author of the soon-to-be-released book The Self-Pay Patient. Before founding IPM he was president of the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP), a nonprofit advocacy organization focused on defending the First Amendment. Prior to joining IPM Parnell was Vice President of External Affairs at The Heartland Institute.
Gary Alexander was former Secretary of the R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and more recently served as Secretary of Public Weflare in Pennsylvania. Gary is the architect of the landmark RI Medicaid “block grant” waiver. Alexander formerly served as policy director for RI’s Lieutenant Gover and as a healthcare budget analyst for the Massachusetts Senate Comittee on Ways and Means.
SPECIAL 2011 PENSION TASK FORCE
Rich Danker: Project Director for Economics at American Principles Project, Danker manages initiatives on public employee pension reform and monetary policy. He presented and won approval for model pension reform legislation at the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization of nearly 2,000 state legislators. His work on pension issues has appeared in Investors Business Daily, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Washington Examiner, among others. He is a columnist with Forbes Opinions. Danker has a master’s degree in public policy and business administration from the Pepperdine School of Public Policy and Graziadio School of Business and Management.
Eileen Norcross: a senior research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Norcross is lead researcher on the State and Local Policy Project. Her work focuses on the question of how societies sustain prosperity and the role civil society plays in supporting economic resiliency. Her primary research interests include fiscal federalism and institutions, state and local governments, and economic development.
Bob Williams: President of State Budget Solutions, a non-partisan organization advocating for fundamental reform and REAL solutions to the state budget crises. Bob is a former state legislator, gubernatorial candidate and official with the General Accountability Office. Bob is a national expert in fiscal and tax policies, election reform and disaster preparedness. Because of his unique experience and expertise, Bob is a frequent guest on talk radio and at public forums. His commentary on state budget solutions appears frequently in newspapers, journals and online publications.
Williams is the Founder and Senior Fellow of the Freedom Foundation, a public policy organization in Olympia, Washington, dedicated to the advancement of individual liberty. He received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Pennsylvania State University. Bob worked as a GAO auditor of the Pentagon and Post Office before moving to Washington state where he served five terms in the Washington state legislature and was the 1988 Republican nominee for governor. He is a former certified public accountant. Currently Bob is the private sector chair of the ALEC Tax & Fiscal Policy Task Force.
Jonathan Williams: director of the Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Prior to joining ALEC, Williams served as staff economist at the non-partisan Tax Foundation, authoring numerous tax policy studies. His work has been featured in many publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, Forbes and Investor’s Business Daily. With Dr. Arthur Laffer and Steve Moore, Williams co-authored Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer Economic Competitiveness Index. He has been a contributing author to the Reason Foundation’s Annual Privatization Report and has written for the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. In addition, Williams is a contributing author of “In Defense of Capitalism” (Northwood University Press, 2010).
In addition to testifying before numerous legislative bodies across the US, Williams is a frequent guest on talk radio shows and has appeared on numerous television outlets, including the PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and Fox Business News. Williams graduated magna cum laude from Northwood University in Midland, Mich., majoring in economics, banking/finance, and business management. While at Northwood, he was the recipient of the prestigious Ludwig von Mises Award in Economics.
Jagadeesh Gokhale: a Cato senior fellow, Mr. Gokhale is currently a member of the Social Security Advisory Board. He is recognized internationally as an expert on entitlement reform, labor productivity and compensation, U.S. fiscal policy and the impact of fiscal policy on future generations. He works with Cato’s Project on Social Security Choice to develop reforms for programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Gokhale served in 2002 as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Treasury and in 2003 as a visiting scholar with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). He was the senior economic adviser to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland from 1990 to 2003. Gokhale holds a Ph.D. in economics from Boston University.