McKee sits down with ABC 6 to discuss proposed $13.7B budget

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — Less than a week since his first State of the State address as elected governor, Dan McKee sat down with ABC 6 News Monday to discuss his proposed $13.7 billion budget he submitted to the general assembly for the upcoming fiscal year last week.

The budget has been dubbed “RI Ready” by the governor. It includes massive investments in industries across the board like infrastructure, education, and small business, as well as relief for Rhode Island taxpayers.

“The strategy has been to take those dollars that are either surplus or federal dollars and invest them in one-time expenses,” McKee said.

The governor also proposed cutting the 3-cent gas tax hike for this year, as well as lowering the sales tax to 6.85%, down from its current rate of 7%, which is the second highest in the United States. The proposed sales tax will continue incrementally drop, until reaching the Massachusetts level of 6.25%.

Heading into 2023, the governor called this year Rhode Island’s time and said with investments in small business, $25 million in the offshore wind industry, and over $7 million proposed towards building new school classrooms.

With billions of dollars proposed for projects to improve Rhode Island’s infrastructure, education, and more, one question the governor was asked during this interview was: once these projects are completed and more infrastructure is brought to the area, affect living costs and inflation down the line, what will living costs look like, and how will inflation continue to affect that?

“Hopefully, we’ll be repositioned stronger and stronger every year on academic outcomes and earning levels,” the governor said, adding this is Rhode Island’s time to jump on economic recovery. “It’s our moment to shine and I believe it’s our turn. Finally, Rhode Island is not the first in and last out of economic downturns and the RI 2030 plan is all about positioning Rhode Island, so it’s not first in and last out of economic downturns.”

Another issue that has plagued Rhode Island is housing, and as many residents struggle to keep up with monthly rent payments, ABC 6 asked McKee if he would consider relief checks for residents. The governor responded that he is still undecided.

“Right now, we’re going to do an overall housing plan,” he said. “Rentals are part of it. Homeownership is part of it. We want to make sure people struggling will get assistance.”

Also in recent months, homelessness has gained more attention across the state, and most recently, Housing Secretary Josh Saal resigned from his position just one year after being appointed.

But the governor also keyed in on two other major issues across the country, a ban on assault weapon sales, that he said he will sign a bill if brought to his desk, and major investments in women’s reproductive rights by expanding the Reproductive Privacy Act of 2019.

“What we put in the budget this year is to make sure across the board that people have the access to abortion,” McKee told ABC 6. When asked if he thinks he has enough votes from the General Assembly, the governor said it’s up to leadership to decide.

“I think so, we’ll leave that up to the leadership to speak, and the senate president. But my feeling is that this would be the moment to do that,” he said.

The governor’s budget also puts a focus on education, which has dealt with poor test scores and attendance.

McKee said that investments in new classrooms and scholarship programs, as well as teachers, will lead the charge to turn around the system.

Also adding the state will hold itself accountable for getting things back on track, doing so within the first 100 days of 2023.

“Within the first 100 days, we will have a report and I will have a public statement that will be backed up by OP-EDs that will show how exactly we’re going to move over the next eight years,” he said.

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