8 quick things to know about Rhode Island’s budget
Happy Saturday and welcome to a special edition of Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Biggest Little. I’m Dan McGowan and I read the state budget, late last night, so you don’t have to. Send tips to Dan.McGowan@globe.com.
Rhode Island, we’ve got a budget.
The House Finance Committee unveiled a nearly $10 billion proposal shortly before midnight last night, setting the stage for a vote by the full House next Friday. Here’s my complete story in the Globe.
So what should you know before next week? Here’s a guide that will make you sound super smart at Father’s Day dinner this weekend.
1. No expansion of free college
The Rhode Island Promise scholarship offering two years of free tuition will not include students at Rhode Island College or adults at the Community College of Rhode Island, but new high school graduates who attend CCRI will still be eligible for the program.
2. More seats for pre-K
House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello stressed that “it’s not universal,” but the budget does include funding for an additional 280 four-year-olds to attend pre-kindergarten next year. That’s about half of what Governor Gina Raimondo was asking for.
3. They’re not legalizing pot
Governor Raimondo’s argument for legalizing the recreational use of marijuana was that Massachusetts had already done it and Connecticut was planning to do it (it didn’t), but Speaker Mattiello said he had deep concerns about the plan. Instead, the budget adds six additional medical marijuana dispensaries, bringing the state’s total to nine.
4. More economic development tools
Governor Raimondo wanted to increase the Rebuild RI tax credit for construction projects from $150 million to $250 million, but the budget only gets the program to $200 million. Lawmakers are also growing the small business loan fund and the budget includes Senate President Dominick Ruggerio’s bill to streamline development by stripping Providence of its zoning authority on the I-195 land.
5. Most of the tax changes are out
Digital downloads – like songs or movie streaming services – will now be subject to the sales tax, but most of the governor’s other tax proposals were left out of the budget. That means there won’t be a new Medicaid tax on large employers or an increase on taxes for hotels, cigarettes or guns.
6. URI is getting a board of trustees
University of Rhode Island President David Dooleyhas a lot of juice on Smith Hill. His proposal to create a 17-member board of trustees doesn’t quite have the support of Governor Raimondo, but he managed to get it included in the budget anyway. That means it will be nearly impossible to veto.
7. Two wins for Providence
The budget restores funding for the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program that Providence benefits from because of the number of nonprofit colleges and hospitals that are in the capital city. Funding for English language learners came in at $5 million, a huge chunk of which will go toward Providence.
8. A word about the process
The House Finance Committee approved the budget shortly before midnight and only minutes after receiving their copies of the revised proposal. Common Cause Rhode Island executive director John Marion said “it’s too bad the budget is exempted from this year’s successful new rule requiring the release of amendments 24 hours prior to committee votes.”
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