RI voters approve $400 million in funding for projects

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island voters have approved seven bond questions authorizing $400 million in borrowing to fund projects across the state from beaches to transportation to early childhood education, according to unofficial results posted by the Board of Elections.

The bonds were on the ballot in an unusual March special election, since the questions weren’t approved by lawmakers in time to be on the November ballot.

Roughly 101,000 Rhode Islanders voted in the election, according to unofficial totals. More than 68,000 submitted mail ballots, while 9,400 voted early in person and about 23,700 voted at traditional polling places on Tuesday.

In passing all seven separate questions, voters authorized $107 million for projects at the three state colleges; $74 million in borrowing for green initiatives such as state beaches and parks; $65 million for affordable housing development; $72 million for transportation infrastructure; $15 million for early childhood education infrastructure; $7 million for arts and culture; and $60 million for  industrial site development at Quonset.

While all the borrowing was approved, the margins of victory varied. More than 80% of those who voted favored the transportation infrastructure bond, for example, while the higher education and Quonset bonds each received 59% support.

The arts bond was approved with 60% in favor and 40% opposed, while the early childhood education and housing bonds each won about 66% of the vote.

The beach, clean water and green bond was also overwhelmingly approved, with 78% of the vote.

The next step is for the state to go out to competitive bid for the bonds, according to General Treasurer Seth Magaziner’s office, which hopes to take advantage of low interest rates.

While the bond questions as they are presented to voters typically assume a 5% interest rate, Magaziner’s spokesperson says he is expecting the rates to be much lower, around 1.6%.

“Today, Rhode Islanders had the opportunity to build a stronger, brighter future for our state, and we did just that,” Magaziner said in a statement. “In times of great crisis, we need to be bold and with these bond measures, Rhode Islanders are spurring local job creation, making ourselves more competitive in the regional and global market and jumpstarting a broad-based recovery from COVID-19.”

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook

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