General Assembly approves $9.6B budget for FY 2019

THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY has approved a $9.6 billion budget to be sent to Governor Gina M. Raimondo to sign. / PBN FILE PHOTO/NICOLE DOTZENROD
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY has approved a $9.6 billion budget to be sent to Gov. Gina M. Raimondo to sign. / PBN FILE PHOTO/NICOLE DOTZENROD

PROVIDENCE – The General Assembly passed a $9.6 billion fiscal year 2019 budget Wednesday that, among many things, provides for the legalization of gambling in Rhode Island.

The general revenue total in the budget was $3.9 billion, while federal money accounts for $3.2 billion. The budget will now go to Gov. Gina M. Raimondo for her review and signature. Raimindo does not have a line-item veto.

The bill includes the establishment of legal sports gambling at Twin River Casino. International Game Technology PLC won the contract to operate sports wagering in the state. The state will retain 51 percent of sports gambling revenue, IGT will keep 32 percent and Twin River will receive 17 percent.

The budget includes $56.4 million for the Executive Office of Commerce, including $11.2 million for the Rebuild Rhode Island Tax Credit Fund, $11 million for the Real Jobs Rhode Island training program and $1.6 million in Wavemaker Fellowship funds. Between state and federal funds, there will be $55.3 million in workforce-development funds for fiscal 2019.

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Legislators extended several business-incentive programs but did not include any new programs within the R.I. Commerce Corp.

More details:

  • The budget does not increase the number of allowed medical-marijuana dispensaries in the state but does raise the licensing fees from $5,000 to $250,000. Medical-marijuana patients from Connecticut and Massachusetts will be allowed to purchase medical marijuana in the state.
  • The budget retains the governor’s proposal to add $6 million to the Rhode Island Promise program that provides Rhode Islanders two tuition-free years at the Community College of Rhode Island.
  • The budget includes $976.2 million in state aid to education.
  • The budget addresses the E-911 program, providing an additional $1 million in funding and a provision to implement a limitation on spending of surplus funds from the program to public safety programs.
  • The budget contains three ballot questions: a question seeking voter approval of a $250 million bond for construction to fix the state’s deteriorating public schools; a question seeking $70 million in improvements at the University of Rhode Island Narragansett Bay campus and Horace Mann Hall at Rhode Island College; and a question asking voters to approve $47.3 million in borrowing for a variety of environmental, open space and recreation initiatives.

“This budget accomplishes a great deal for Rhode Islanders by using our resources carefully. We’ve been able to restore funding to help people with disabilities and the Department of Children, Youth and Families. We eliminated almost every transfer to the general fund from the accounts of quasi-public agencies and state departments, and avoided raising any broad-based taxes. We also moved quickly to be an early adopter of sports betting, and negotiated a very competitive share for the state,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman William T. Conley, D-East Providence, in a statement. “Additionally, the inclusion of the school construction bond that will help address Rhode Island’s crumbling public school buildings was one of the Senate’s top priorities, and I believe Rhode Islanders will support this effort to invest in our schools.”

Last year, the Senate and House could not agree on a budget by July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year, leading to an extended impasse that ended Aug. 3, 2017, when legislators settled their differences and Raimondo signed the budget into law.

Chris Bergenheim is the PBN web editor.