PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The House Finance Committee on Friday night approved a $14 billion budget bill following negotiations between top state leaders.
House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi described the budget as one that “reflects the times that we are in.”
“This is a budget that meets the needs of Rhode Islanders,” Shekarchi said. “Nobody, including me and everybody else here, got everything they wanted.”
Shekarchi announced during a media briefing Friday afternoon that Gov. Dan McKee’s proposal to lower the state sales tax from 7% to 6.85% was left on the cutting-room floor.
“With much regret, we had to take the sales tax cut out of the budget,” Shekarchi said.
When McKee unveiled his budget proposal earlier this year, he explained that the sales tax cut would be possible due to a budget surplus.
But Shekarchi said there just wasn’t enough money to make it happen this fiscal year.
“Our revenues have fallen off about $61 million from our initial look back in November, and this budget reflects that,” he said.
While the sales-tax cut wasn’t included in this year’s budget, McKee hinted that it might be considered in the future.
The budget sets aside $9.4 million for state-funded scholarships as well, which would provide two years of free tuition for eligible Rhode Island College students.
The proposal is a win for Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha, who in the past has described his office as understaffed, underfunded and “totally underwater.”
Shekarchi confirmed that the budget will allow Neronha to hire 15 additional full-time staffers, which would in turn allow him to launch his proposed cold case unit.
In a statement to 12 News, a spokesperson for Neronha said the state’s “meaningful investment in our office is essential and will yield significant benefits for all Rhode Islanders.”
Shekarchi said the full House is scheduled to vote on the proposal next Friday.