For many Rhode Island business groups, the $8 billion state budget lawmakers have begun debating and are expected to pass this week was notable for what it did not include:
• No meals tax hike.
• No personal income tax hike.
• No extension of the hotel tax to bed & breakfasts or vacation-home rentals.
• No funding for an advanced-nursing center in Providence.
• No new historic tax credits.
With a few exceptions, the budget drawn up by House Democratic leaders favors the status quo, eliminating many of Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s more daring proposals and restoring funding to areas cut during the recession.
Those moves were well-received by groups with funding restored, such as human-services organizations and industries that mobilized to fight Chafee’s latest sales tax expansion plans.
As of June 7, leaders in the House were hoping to vote on the spending plan that night or early the next morning with the Senate expected to follow this week.
“We are thrilled with the decision by the leadership in the General Assembly to eliminate the meals-tax proposal from the budget and to rescind the tax on scenic and sightseeing tours,” said Dale Venturini, president of the Rhode Island Hospitality Association. “Hospitality is the fourth-largest industry in Rhode Island and the legislative leadership recognizes that keeping our state a competitive destination is an important step to our economic recovery.”
But others have expressed concern that as Rhode Island fights to emerge from the recession, the 2013 spending plan isn’t as forward-looking as it could be and lacks investments in infrastructure, economic development and solutions to structural fiscal problems.
The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce was mixed on the budget, unhappy that a proposed University of Rhode Island-Rhode Island College advanced nursing center wasn’t funded, but pleased there will be no 2 percentage-point hike in the meals tax or personal income tax hikes for high earners.