Senate OK’s $8.2 billion budget

Dee DeQuattro

The Rhode Island $8.2 billion budget received final approval from the Senate on Thursday evening passing with a 32 to 6 vote.

After much debate in both the senate and the house, the budget ultimately included a $2.5 million payment to moral obligation bonds issued for the now bankrupt-38 studios. The first payment is due in May. As a measure of compromise the budget includes $50,000 for a market analysis to look at the consequences if the state fails to pay back the bonds. In addition the program the “Job Creation Guarantee Program” which funded 38 Studios was eliminated by the budget.

The budget included no new taxes however it does include a 16-month suspension of the tax on wine and spirits sales. The measure is the help keep Rhode Island liquor store competitive with Massachusetts liquor store who currently have no taxes.

The bill also includes a temporary halt on the implementation of tolling on the Sakonnet River Bridge until at least February 1 in order to allow the lawmakers to assess other options to fund bridge maintenance.

The budget also pays $12.9 million back to the states pension fund by taking $3 million planned for road and bridge projects, $6 million from state government operating costs, $850,000 from the mortgage fraud settlement, and $3 million from one time sources.

Providence's Superman Building also could benefit from the new budget but not in the “super” way developers were hoping. As part of the plan, a historic structure tax credit program is restored however the amount of money one single project can benefit from is capped at $5 million.

Missing from the budget is Governor Chafee's proposal to cut the corporate tax rate by 2% over the next three years. Also the General Assembly eliminated his proposals to eliminate the jobs development tax credit and the enterprise tax credit to make up the lost revenue from the tax cut.

The budget also does not include pay raises for state employees in 2014.

The budget will now head to the Governor's desk for final approval.

(C) WLNE-TV 2013