$9.2B state budget heads to House today

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The current version of this year’s $9.2 billion state budget is heading to the House Thursday, with millions of dollars already trimmed from Gov. Gina Raimondo’s earlier budget.

The budget, which in part tackles the car tax and free college tuition, will be debated and is expected to get a vote. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello has promised not to extend the debate past 10 p.m., and said it would continue into a second day if necessary.

A number of amendments are expected to be introduced during the debate.

“This budget provides tax relief. It includes $26 million for the first year of the car tax phaseout,” Mattiello said last week when the compromise budget plan was released. “There are no broad-based tax increases.”

A scaled-back version of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s free tuition plan (called the RI Promise Scholarship) is in the current budget proposal. She had originally pushed for free in-state tuition at all public colleges in the state. The compromise only includes the Community College of Rhode Island.

Raimondo told Eyewitness News on Tuesday she is okay with the compromise for now. Raimondo also said she does plan to sign the budget bill into law based on its current form.

“Things do change, and so we’ll see what happens over the next few days,” Raimondo said. “But there’s a lot to like in there.”

The free tuition plan comes with a catch — students must pledge to remain in Rhode Island immediately following graduation. House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan was skeptical that the pledge would keep students in the Ocean State.

“How can that be enforced?” Morgan said. “If a student gets out of school and they can’t find a job here, we’re going to make them stay for two years?”

The bill leaves it up to CCRI to form a policy surrounding the pledge.

The budget also calls for a minimum wage increase, to $10.10 an hour in 2018 and $10.50 in 2019.