The House Finance Committee Tuesday passed an $8.2 billion budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. The spending plan doesn’t include any new broad-based taxes and wipes out some of Governor Lincoln Chafee’s initiatives.
With little debate, the budget passed its first hurdle on a 12-to-zero vote, with two Republican lawmakers abstaining. The spending plan reduces proposed help for distressed communities and eliminates Chafee’s plan to cut the corporate tax from 9 percent to 7 percent over time. House Finance Chairman Helio Melo said lawmakers had to work with what they had.
"Because we fell short in anticipated revenue of about $51 million, there was a lot of new programs that the governor wanted to do that we could just not do. We just were not able to afford it," said Melo.
The budget boosts support for K-through-12 and higher education. The plan includes an initial payment of $2.5 million dollars to pay back 38 Studios bonds due next May. It also earmarks $50,000 to study whether paying back the bonds is the right move, and it kills the loan program lured 38 Studios to Rhode Island.
The budget moves to the House floor for a final vote next Tuesday.
Governor Lincoln Chafee’s administration is reacting with disappointment to the budget.
Chafee’s spokeswoman. Christine Hunsinger, said the governor will evaluate the spending plan as a whole before deciding his next move. She said the House missed by an opportunity to help protect taxpayers by not including more funding for Chafee’s plan to help distressed communities.
A member of Woonsocket’s budget commission, Peder Schaefer, said the loss of $1.4 million in expected funding raises questions about whether the commission can continue doing its work.
Melo said lawmakers had to cut some of Chafee’s initiatives due to lower than expected state revenue.
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