PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — After months of debate and more than 40 Senate Finance Committee budget meetings, the nearly $10 billion Rhode Island spending bill is heading to Governor Gina Raimondo’s desk after passing in the Senate by a vote of 30-8.
Around 11 p.m. Thursday, the Rhode Island Senate approved the bill that includes some, but not all, of the requests made by Raimondo.
According to a State House spokesperson, Raimondo’s request to increase the hotel tax and excise tax on firearms and ammunition, and the legalization of marijuana were not included on the bill.
One Senator on the finance committee said the state needs a stronger long-term vision when it comes to education.
“The road to get to more requires a plan. More than a plan of ‘hey we want you to do this and we will figure out something else next year.’ That road needs a long term plan,” Senator Ryan Pearson said. “It’s not just about pre-k, it’s about pre-k through 12. Because if we go make a lot of investments in pre-k but by the time they get to third grade we have lost all those gains because we haven’t done anything about k-12. We are throwing money away.”
The Rhode Island Promise Scholarship program will continue to be funded, however, it will not see an increase.
The Rhode Island Promise Scholarship was launched in 2017 to support students graduating high school with two years of paid tuition and fees to attend the Community College of Rhode Island.
The Rhode Island minimum wage did not see an increase during the bill, however, Rhode Island lawmakers increased the minimum wage in six of the last seven years.
The bill increases minimum wages for health care professionals who work with adults with disabilities.
Some lawmakers did express concern over part of the budget that deals with Medicaid.
“Nursing homes did not get the full two percent and nursing homes were cut. There are still Medicaid cuts in this budget, and we have hammered Medicaid year after year,” Senator Sam Bell said. “We need to put an end to year after year of Medicaid cuts. This can not be how we make up the gap in the budget by taking it out on the most vulnerable.”
Although the bill does not take steps towards legalizing marijuana in Rhode Island, it does increase the number of compassion centers across the state.
Officials say lawmakers moved money from the highway maintenance fund to ensure senior’s free rides with RIPTA service.
As part of the budget, the spending plan includes the car-tax phase-out plan and aims to close a $200 million dollar budget gap, the change in design, and $2 increase to the state’s wave license plates.
A new tampon tax revision that would remove sales taxes for feminine hygiene products, would take effect in October if passed.
The next fiscal year begins July 1.