House Finance Committee passes its version of RI state budget
By John Krinjak
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) -- The House Finance Committee passed its version of the state budget 15-3 late Friday night.
Before the Committee took up the budget, House Speaker Nick Mattiello and House Finance Chair Marvin Abney spoke to reporters about the details of the budget.
Perhaps the biggest difference between Gov. Raimondo's plan and the House one is funding for human services. Mattiello had expressed his concern that the Governor's $100 million in cuts in that area was just too much. His budget gets rid of co-pays proposed by the Governor that would have been added for those on Medicaid--as well as upping reimbursement for medicaid service providers by 10%.
One area where the House version echoes the Governor's budget is sports gambling. It keeps the $23 million in expected revenue from this type of gaming, and authorizes the Governor to forge a contract with a vendor which would provide it at Twin River's two locations. The Speaker says he still hopes to have sports gambling up and running by October 1.
The House budget also gets rid of Gov. Raimondo's proposed 25-cent hike in the cigarette tax which would have made Rhode Island's cigarette tax the highest in the nation. It nixes expansion of so called compassion centers for medical marijuana, but does allow those with medical pot cards from Connecticut and Massachusetts to access centers in Rhode Island.
The House budget maintains $250 million in bond money to repair crumbling schools, and actually ups school funding in the upcoming budget year by $7 million.
Finally, this budget creates a contingency plan of sorts in case the state loses that much-publicized lawsuit brought against it by nursing homes. In essence, if the nursing homes win the suit, that $24 million would, roughly, come out of the amount that the state would have otherwise reimbursed the homes as part of the budget.
The full House is slated to take up the budget next Friday.