RI lawmakers plan March election to ask voters to approve $400M in bonds


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — When Rhode Island lawmakers finally vote on a budget for the current fiscal year next week, they plan to ask voters for $400 million in borrowing for education, green infrastructure, transportation and other initiatives.

If passed, the bond referendums would go to voters in a special election likely on March 2, according to state Rep. Joe Shekarchi, who is expected to be elected speaker of the House in January.

The proposal, included as part of a “skinny budget” passed by the House Finance Committee Wednesday evening, includes seven separate questions for voters to consider.

Question 1: $107 million for higher education projects at all three state colleges, including a fine arts center at URI, Clarke Science Building at RIC, and renovations at all four CCRI campuses

Question 2: $74 million for green initiatives including state beaches, campgrounds, parks (including the I-195 land park), clean water, the Woonasquatucket greenway project and Providence river dredging

Question 3: $65 million for affordable housing development

• Question 4: $72 million for transportation infrastructure, to match federal funds for ports, highways, roads and bridges

• Question 5: $15 million for early childhood facilities and the education capital fund

• Question 6: $7 million for arts and culture including the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts grant program, Trinity Repertory Company and Rhode Island Philharmonic

• Question 7: $60 million for Quonset to develop the Port of Davisville and acquire and develop other industrial sites for “job-producing activities”

“We recognize it’s a significant amount, but the time to spend is right now when the interest rates are low and the economy needs it,” Shekarchi told reporters during a budget briefing Wednesday afternoon.

The new budget proposal also includes $1.5 million to help pay for a mostly mail-in election for the bond questions, with $1 million going to the secretary of state’s office and half a million dollars to the R.I. Board of Elections.

The proposed bill also waives the requirement for two witnesses or a notary to sign a voter’s mail ballot. (The provision was also waived for the September and November elections this year as a result of a court order, but that decision didn’t impact future elections.)

Gov. Gina Raimondo had proposed borrowing $269 million in her original budget plan in January, but increased that request in July. In a typical year the borrowing would have gone to the voters on the November ballot after the budget passed, but the General Assembly held off on passing a budget amid financial uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

The new bond proposal also splits the borrowing into seven questions, while Raimondo had proposed three.

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

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



Dan Yorke State of Mind

DYSOM 10/15/2021: Sen. Louis DiPalma, (D) District 12

More Dan Yorke State of Mind

Don't Miss


More Live Cams
Viewer Pa on WPRI.com

Community Events & Happenings

More Community