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Some highlights from House committee’s Rhode Island budget

June 8, 2016

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The nearly $9 billion state budget bill now headed to the full House contains no new taxes, provides tax relief for retirees and cuts beach parking fees by almost half just in time for summer.

The House Finance Committee voted 14-2 early Wednesday, with Republican Reps. Patricia Morgan and Antonio Giarrusso both voting no on the $8.9 billion spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The budget bill is expected to head to the full House for a vote next Wednesday with the Senate to follow. If both chambers pass it, the spending plan will go to Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo for her signature.

Here are some highlights:

— The plan includes a state income tax exemption for all retirees who have reached the full Social Security retirement age beginning in the 2017 tax year. The program would exempt the first $15,000 of income from state income taxes for retirees earning up to $80,000 as single tax filers, or up to $100,000 for joint filers. About 61,500 residents are expected to qualify.

— Reduces the corporate minimum tax from $450 to $400.

— Cuts beach parking fees, by almost half, to their 2011 level.

— Includes Raimondo’s economic development tools, such as a tax credit to spur real estate development. The committee created a new program to encourage more direct flights between T.F. Green Airport and major cities.

— Expands the state’s contribution to the earned income tax credit for low-income families, to help 83,000 tax filers.

— Adds $9 million to pay for requirements of a federal consent decree meant to provide better job opportunities to thousands of people with developmental disabilities. A federal judge last month threatened to impose up to $1 million in fines annually on the state if it did not take steps to comply with the 2014 agreement.

— Restores Medicaid cost-of-living adjustments for nursing homes.

— Restructures unemployment insurance taxes paid by employers to save employers money.

— Temporarily restores tourism promotion funds to regional tourism districts.

— Eliminates a proposed increase in the cigarette tax from $3.75 per pack to $4.

— Scales back a proposed medical marijuana tax in which Rhode Island growers have to buy tags from the state for plants they cultivate. The tags, which were proposed at a cost of $150 for patients who grow their own marijuana or $350 for caregivers who are permitted to provide marijuana for up to five patients, will now cost about $25 to cover the cost of the regulatory system, not to add to general revenues.

— Overhauls how grants are awarded to community service groups.

— Includes full funding for the state education funding formula to increase aid to local school districts and a tuition freeze at state colleges and universities.

— Adds five bond referendums for the November ballot for rebuilding piers at Quonset Point, higher education, affordable housing, environmental and health initiatives and the state Veterans’ Home. The higher education bond includes funding to help develop an “innovation center” connected with the University of Rhode Island to encourage innovation and job creation, and the affordable housing bond includes funding for lead remediation. Proposals for bond referendums for school construction and for expanding the port of Providence didn’t make the cut.

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