PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – With Gov. Dan McKee poised to deliver his State of the State address on Tuesday, Rhode Islanders are set to get their first glimpse of the governor’s agenda during his first full term in office.

Below are five key things people should know ahead of the televised address, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Agenda-setting

The State of the State is traditionally a speech that outlines the governor’s top initiatives for the upcoming year, so McKee is likely to speak broadly on topics that are important to him, including education, economic development and – as a former mayor – municipal issues. McKee, who became governor in March 2021 after Gina Raimondo left midterm to become U.S. commerce secretary, spent much of his first two years working to win the office in his own right. Accomplishing that goal last November, the governor now has the opportunity to set a new tone for what the next four years under his leadership might look like.

Sales tax

Because State of the State speeches coincide with the unveiling of more nitty-gritty state budget documents – which McKee is set to release Thursday – the addresses often highlight some of the key budget proposals the governor is putting forward. This week, many will be listening for the governor to talk about some type of tax relief, as he’s repeatedly hinted at wanting to cut the state sales tax and freeze the gas tax. Rhode Island’s sales tax currently stands at 7%, compared to 6.25% in Massachusetts and 6.35% in Connecticut.

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Education

Looking to make good on a campaign promise, McKee is also likely to talk about his goal of raising education outcomes for Rhode Island students. McKee has considered education one of his top priorities throughout his political career, which began as mayor of Cumberland and led him to governor via the office of lieutenant governor. During his hard-fought Democratic primary election last year, McKee committed to raising the state’s educational outcomes to match or beat Massachusetts levels by 2030. He repeated the promise during his inaugural speech earlier this month.

Flush with cash

While the flood of pandemic relief money has slowed compared with the past couple years, Rhode Island still isn’t hurting for cash. In November, state budget officials estimated the state was on track to finish the current fiscal year that ends June 30 with a surplus of $610 million, giving McKee plenty of opportunity to funnel money toward his top initiatives. Of course, the $610 million is only an estimate, and House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi has already warned that an impending recession this year could wipe out the surplus once receipts are counted again in May. If Shekarchi is correct, some of McKee’s budget ideas aren’t likely to make the final cut when legislative leaders unveil their revised version of the tax-and-spending plan in June.

Power dynamics

A state budget in many ways is just a list of priorities, and no three people have greater sway over the Rhode Island spending plan than McKee, Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio. So far, the trio have been playing nice in the sandbox, without the sort of clear public disagreements that were commonplace when Raimondo was governor and former Rep. Nicholas Mattiello served as House speaker. With that in mind, budget cycles have the ability to show where there are cracks in the relationship between the big three, so people are likely to look for how much of the other leaders’ priorities are included in McKee’s speech and how they react to it. Shekarchi has made it clear that housing remains his top priority, while Ruggerio and his team are seeking some type of reform to how the state distributes school funding.

Eli Sherman (esherman@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.