Raimondo budget proposal tops $10 billion

Gov. Gina Raimondo is greeted by her top aides, Chief of Staff David Ortiz and Director of Administration Brett Smiley as she completed her State of the State Address before a joint session of the General Assembly at the State House on January 14, 2019. Photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

By Steve Klamkin WPRO News

Governor Gina Raimondo presented a record-high budget to the General Assembly calling for just under $10.2 billion in spending for the fiscal year that begins July 1, about a 2.2% increase from the current year.

She has factored in about $21 million dollars in revenue by legalizing personal use of marijuana, and in a bid to overcome opposition by legislative leaders, proposed restricting marijuana sales to state-run stores, similar to the state liquor stores in New Hampshire.

“That would be state-run stores with a private contractor to do some of the work,” said Director of Administration Brett Smiley.

“That would allow us to capture more of the tax revenue, reduce opportunities for corruption and generate more money for both the state and for public safety and for public health initiatives,” said Smiley.

Legislative leaders looked askance at the proposal.

“I am disappointed that revenue from the proposed legalization of recreational marijuana was included in the budget proposal,” said Senate President Dominick Ruggerio.

“Seeing as the marijuana proposal is unlikely to pass, we effectively have a proposed budget that is out of balance to the tune of $21.8 million. The Senate Finance Committee will be reviewing the details of all aspects of the budget in the coming months,” said Ruggerio in a statement. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello called the marijuana proposal “risky and short-sighted at best”.

Raimondo’s spending plan would also extend the current car tax phase-out by another year, extending the phase-out by five years.

The phase-out is Speaker Mattiello’s signature effort, and he shot out a statement expressing his displeasure.

““It’s no secret that I’m interested in maintaining the current law regarding the car tax phase-out. This is the second year in a row that the Governor has tried to tinker with the car tax. We must keep our promise we made to our constituents and taxpayers,” Mattiello said.

“By extending the phase-out, the added burden on the state budget is little smaller, we’ll do it over a little bit longer period of time, in which we’ll have a greater degree of confidence that we’ll be able to keep it away,” said Smiley.

The budget calls for putting three ballot questions to voters, $117 million for higher education, $87 million for new housing and infrastructure improvements and $64 million to improve beaches, parks and clean water projects.

The budget also includes a tax increase for cigarettes, changing the tax structure for wine and liquor sales and for real estate transfer taxes.