It’s budget day at the Rhode Island State House, which means Governor Dan McKee will unveil a multibillion-dollar tax-and-spend proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1, and legislative leaders will smile, promise a thorough public vetting over the next several months, and then proceed to come up with their own plan.
With a projected $610 million surplus for the current fiscal year, McKee has already made it clear that he wants tax relief to be the top headline from his budget proposal. We’ll have full coverage around 4 p.m., but here’s a quick look at some of the key issues to watch.
In his State of the State address earlier this week, McKee said he wants to reduce the state sales tax from 7 percent to 6.85, with a goal of further reductions in future budget years. His number crunchers project that will cost $35 million.
He’s also got plans to reduce the corporate minimum tax from $400 a year to $375, halt a planned 3 percent increase in the gas tax, and eliminate the litter tax for small businesses. Rhode Islanders can also expect to see energy bill rebates.
New Senate Majority Leader Ryan Pearson, who, like McKee, is from Cumberland, is itching to revise the state’s school funding formula. He wants to tweak the formula to provide a more reliable stream of money for districts with increasing numbers of English learners – especially places like Pawtucket and Woonsocket, which have been getting shortchanged for years.
McKee has said he’ll pitch a “targeted modification” of the formula, which will come with an additional $57 million for K-12 schools.
McKee’s decision to appoint Stefan Pryor as the housing secretary means the governor now has a reliable leader who is fluent in Rhode Island bureaucratese at the helm. The budget will likely include a plan for building up the department that Pryor will oversee once he’s confirmed.
Will there be new incentives to offer developers who commit to building affordable housing?
Equality in Abortion Coverage Act
On the campaign trail last year, McKee pledged to include funding in his next budget to provide abortion coverage to women on Medicaid and state employees. There has been some debate over whether House and Senate Democrats have the votes to pass it, but McKee is expected to follow through on that promise today.
This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, data about the coronavirus in the state, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.