PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island’s state government closed out the 2022-23 budget year with a surplus of $410 million, an amount that’s $41 million higher than lawmakers had expected when they crafted the current year’s tax-and-spending plan.
The final budget surplus for the recently concluded fiscal year — which ended June 30 — was up significantly from the $217 million surplus the state posted the prior year, according to a preliminary report released this month by State Controller Dorothy Pascale.
Pascale said general revenue came in $12 million above estimates during 2022-23, while state departments also spent a combined $85 million less than they were allocated. However, that overall total masked roughly $5 million in overspending by both the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals.
Most of the extra money from the surplus is already spoken for: state lawmakers voted earlier this year to use $369 million of the $410 million surplus to help balance the new 2023-24 budget that’s now in effect.
In a joint statement, House Speaker Joe Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio expressed caution about Rhode Island’s overall fiscal picture.
“It’s good news that we ended up a little bit ahead of where we expected,” the two Democratic legislative leaders told 12 News. “The details suggest not all of the news is positive, so it would be premature to comment further.”
Thanks to a provision added to this year’s budget bill, the extra revenue included in the final surplus number will be split between the state pension fund and the so-called rainy-day fund, unlike in past years when all the money rolled over into the next year.
After those transfers, about $29 million in unallocated surplus will be left that Democratic Gov. Dan McKee can use in the coming months as he crafts his 2024-25 budget proposal, due in January.
“The overall picture will become clearer in the coming weeks with the updated November revenue and caseload forecast and other agency spending updates,” said Shekarchi and Ruggerio. “We remain focused on making sure the priorities that were funded get implemented faithfully.”
A spokesperson for McKee didn’t respond to a request for comment about his priorities for spending the budget surplus.
Rhode Island’s annual state budget currently totals about $14 billion, an increase of over $4 billion since before the pandemic, thanks to a huge inflow of federal funds as well as rising state-level spending. Pascale said the rainy-day fund currently stands at $271 million.
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Threads, Twitter and Facebook.