Everyone’s eyes are on the State House as the budget for the next fiscal year is slated to be unveiled today. Governor Gina Raimondo released her proposed budget in March, and the legislative version will be introduced by the House Finance Committee today.
Based on what Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (D-District 15), Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed (D-District 13), and Governor Raimondo have told media in recent weeks, a few things can be expected for the bill.
Raimondo’s tractor-trailer toll proposal will not be part of House budget proposal (at least not initially) but her Medicaid cuts will. Both Mattiello and President Paiva Weed have said that they have too many unanswered questions concerning the tolls for it to be implemented now. But, a special fall session to consider them is not out of the question.
Mattiello’s tax breaks on social security income will also be a key point of the budget. As it stands in Raimondo’s proposed budget, those who file as individuals with an income up to $50,000 are exempt from the income tax on their social security, and those who file jointly are exempt on incomes up to $60,000.
HealthSource RI will remain for another two years, with surcharges on individual’s monthly premiums averaging out at 2.86 percent, and .059 on small business’s monthly premiums.
Plans for economic development have also been interspersed throughout the bill, thanks to Raimondo’s proposed “jobs package.” Parts of this package includes tax breaks for businesses within the state, as well as a reallocation of taxes on hotels for tourism purposes. How the taxes are allocated is dependent on which one of Rhode Island’s 8 tourism districts the hotel is located in.
Money is also being allocated to the state’s environment, thanks to the Bays, Rivers, and Watersheds Fund. The language in the bill states that it will be used to “foster effective management, preservation, restoration, and monitoring of the bays, rivers, and watersheds.”
Higher education is seeing some changes as well. The “Best and Brightest” scholarship fund has been completely axed from the budget; the program gave scholarships to high school students going into college with hopes that they will stay in Rhode Island to teach in the public school system. The legislature also changes how students receive financial aid for college, giving more power to the office of the commissioner of postsecondary education, and creating a general allocation fund for higher education grants.