RI House passes budget 66 to 7

By John Krinjak

Email: jkrinjak@abc6.com

Twitter: @johnkrinjakABC6

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — The Rhode Island House of Representatives decisively passed their version of the state budget 66 to 7 Friday night. 

"For a few minutes I thought we were going to be into Saturday, but we were able to get it done so I’m pleased," said House Speaker Nick Mattiello.

Specifics on sports betting were added to the budget at the 11th hour, after the state hammered out a deal with vendor IGT and Twin River Casino.

Under the contract, the state would get 51% of revenue, IGT would get 32%, and Twin River would get 17%.

"I think it’s a very good deal. We’re in sports gaming earlier than a lot of other states, and we have a better percentage for the taxpayers than any state that’s doing it right now," said Mattiello. 

In addition to expected revenue from sports betting, the budget restores human services funding, continues to phase out the car tax, and borrows $250 million to fix crumbling schools.

Proposed amendments to the budget by Republicans failed, including one to get rid of the prevailing wage for workers doing those school repairs–paying them less to make the bond money go farther.

"Put less of a burden on taxpayers, so I’m very disappointed that my colleagues rejected it," said House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan. 

Another to make sure money from 911 fees on cell phone bills actually goes to fund the system, also fell short.

"Oh, definitely lives are at stake," said Rep. Bob Lancia. 

Overall, Republicans say $9.6 million in spending is just too much.

"That makes us, quite frankly, the state where the taxpayers pay the highest per capita for government. We can’t keep doing that," said Morgan.

But Mattiello says the size of the budget is appropriate, and is glad to see it move on to the Senate.

"I always look at the specifics. The level of spending, in this case, is appropriate to the needs of our society, so I think the budget increase this year is appropriate," said Mattiello. 

The bill will be taken up by the Senate Finance Committee early next week.

That committee’s chair says he is generally pleased by what’s in it, and doesn’t foresee the sort of impasse we saw last summer.

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