Chamber Connections BLOG
Chamber Connections BLOG
At the State House
House Finance Committee Passes “Skinny” Budget
Last week, the House Finance Committee passed H.7171 SubA (on an 11-2 party-line vote), the budget for the current fiscal year. Like everything else in 2020, this budget was unusual in that it has very little new policy initiatives, but there are items for consideration. The full House is scheduled to vote on the legislation Wednesday starting at 3:00 p.m. If passed, the Senate is expected to vote on it this week as well.
So what is in the budget?
The SubA budget is a $12.73 billion budget. Of that amount, $4.153 billion comes from state-generated revenue. To put that in perspective, last year's state-generated portion of the budget was $4.077 billion. This is a maintenance budget.
To close the $275 million gap, from a big picture view, the SubA:
With a few miscellaneous increases in expenditures ($11 million), you get to a closure of the $275 million.
The SubA budget does not raise taxes as proposed by the Governor back in January. It continues the phase-out of the car excise tax. It adds personnel in the Department of Labor to deal with the increase in unemployment claims due to the pandemic. It calls for $300 million in short-term borrowing in anticipation of receipt of taxes.
The SubA includes many bond questions ($400 million if voters approve all questions) to be placed on the ballot of a special election to be held March 2, 2021. The budget includes $1.5 million for election expenses given the probability that voting will rely heavily on mail ballots.
The following bond issues are proposed for voters' consideration:
1. Higher Education Total = $107.3 million
This bond would include $57.3 million for repairs and new construction of a URI building to house musical, theatrical, visual and graphic arts programs; $38 million to reconstruct the Clarke Science Building at RI College; and $12 million for student support spaces at CCRI’s four campuses.
2. Beach, Clean Water and Green Bond Total = $74 million
This bond question includes $33 million for capital improvements to state beaches, parks and campgrounds including Goddard Park beach, Roger Wheeler State beach, Scarborough State beach, Misquamicut State beach and Brenton Point; $4 million for I-195 infrastructure development; $4 million for up to 80% matching grants to municipalities to acquire or rehabilitate local recreational facilities; $3 million to pay for forest and farmland conservation easements; $15 million for wastewater collection and treatment upgrades, storm water improvements, water pollution control and drinking water supply improvements; $7 million for matching grants to municipalities for restoring or improving resiliency of infrastructure and vulnerable coastal habitats as well as restoring rivers and stream floodplains; $6 million to dredge the Downtown Providence River; and $2 million for Woonasquatucket River Watershed infrastructure.
3. Housing Total = $65 million to increase the availability of affordable housing and to redevelop existing structures
4. Transportation Total = $71.7 million to use for federal fund matching requirements to improve transportation infrastructure including ports, highways, roads and bridges.
5. Early Childhood Care and Education Fund Total = $15 million for physical improvements to and development of licensed early childhood care and education facilities. According to the bond request, in 2019, only 20% of the physical space licensed for the State’s 4 yr. old population meets the State definition of quality, and 18 cities and towns do not have any infant/toddler care options.
6. Cultural Arts & the Economy Grant Program Total = $7 million
This bond includes $2.5 million for Trinity Repertory Company; $1.5 million for RI Philharmonic; $2 million for the RI State Council on the Arts to be used for matching grants to nonprofit cultural organization that lease or own their performance space; and $1 million for a State Preservation Grant Program to assist nonprofit historic sites, museums and cultural art centers.
7. Industrial Facilities Infrastructure Total = $60 million
Of the $60 million proposed in this bond, $40 million goes to industrial site development and infrastructure at Quonset; and $20 million goes to the Port of Davisville at Quonset to finance the Port master plan, pay for a new pier at Terminal Five, renovate Pier One and dredge the Quonset port.
Other budget items:
To view the House Fiscal Staff’s 50 page summary go to: H 7171 Sub A Running Summary.pdf (rilegislature.gov)
At the State House
We, at the Chamber, hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.
While Rhode Island enters a two-week pause for many activities, the State House is working to pass what is being referred to as a “skinny budget.” This “skinny budget” will have to reflect the spending which has already occurred in the five months of the current fiscal year, and seek to close the gap of about $275 million that is currently estimated. Possible short-term solutions could include the delay of the payback of money borrowed from the rainy day fund, cuts, or passage of a bond referendum requiring a vote of the State’s citizens. Any new revenue proposals would have to reflect partial year collections, except for those that are able to capture a twelve month period – i.e. income tax changes.
Once the House Finance Committee passes a budget bill, that bill must remain on the House calendar for seven days before the full House can vote on the bill. The bill then goes to the Senate for consideration by the Senate Finance Committee and the full Senate body. The stated goal is to complete this process in the next three and a half weeks. Please watch your emails for updates and requests for action, should that be necessary.
House Oversight Committee to Meet Thursday
The House Oversight Committee will meet Thursday, December 3rd from 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm. The meeting will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live streamed at http://ritv.devosvideo.com/show?video=cd679c40105a
The Department of Administration and the Office of Management and Budget will provide an update on actual expenditures and encumbrances of the $1.25 billion CaresAct Funds. At the last briefing, it appeared that all but $186 million of the money was spent or encumbered, but the Funds are very fluid as the pandemic rises and falls. The Funds must be spent before December 31, 2020, or be returned to the federal government, unless Congress takes further action.
Stefan Pryor, Secretary of CommerceRI, will also provide a “detailed review” of support programs for small businesses during the pandemic.
No public testimony will be taken at this meeting – it will be a presentation only meeting.
Rhode Island is a national leader in COVID-19 testing, but we’re always working to improve our testing systems. The demand for testing is at an all-time high and we need to adapt to handle that level of activity. So, over the next few weeks, we’re making nine major changes to our testing system:
We’re always working to build a more comprehensive, faster testing network to ensure all Rhode Islanders can easily get a test and access their results. Please, keep getting tested regularly to protect yourself and your loved ones.
We're all in this together.
P.S.: Information is our greatest weapon in the fight against COVID-19. If you or someone you know wants to sign up to receive these emails, you can use this link.