Nearly $10B budget headed to Rhode Island governor’s desk
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A nearly $10 billion state budget is headed to Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo’s desk.
The Senate approved the $9.97 billion spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1, by a vote of 30 to 8 late Thursday. The Senate didn’t change the budget the House approved last week .
Raimondo is expected to sign the appropriations bill. She doesn’t have line-item veto power.
The budget would increase state spending by $393 million, expand the pre-kindergarten program and add six medical marijuana dispensaries, bringing the total to nine.
It would eliminate the tax on feminine hygiene products and continue to phase out the car tax. It creates a $5 million annual fee on opioid manufacturers, aimed at addressing the opioid epidemic, and adds a tax on digital downloads and streaming services, including Netflix.
Lawmakers decided against raising beach parking fees but did raise campground fees.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman William Conley, of East Providence, called the budget responsible and said it invests resources based on the state’s needs and goals. Lawmakers discussed whether the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families needed more front-line workers but didn’t ultimately add funding.
The budget doesn’t include Raimondo’s proposals for legalizing recreational marijuana, expanding the state’s free college tuition program, increasing the minimum wage or adding several new taxes, including a fee on large companies based on their number of employees using Medicaid.
The Legislature did grant the governor’s request to add $2.3 million to bring support for students who are learning English to $5 million. It agreed to her request to expand the pre-K program, increasing funding by $2.9 million to add 270 to 300 seats to the 1,080 that are currently funded.
The budget would also create a board of trustees for the University of Rhode Island. The university asked for a board that focuses on finances, enrollment and research opportunities on a multi-year basis. Currently, the six-member Council on Post-Secondary Education oversees the state’s universities.
Raimondo has praised the budget’s investments in education but wanted to spend more on economic development and job training programs.
Among other initiatives, the budget increases the funding for outreach to ensure the upcoming census doesn’t undercount segments of the population, require residents to get new license plates to help with electronic tolling, and institute an individual mandate that would penalize people who don’t have health insurance.