House Finance Committee approves 2024 state budget bill


STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee has approved a $14 billion budget for the 2024 fiscal year that commits funding toward addressing the housing crisis, supports business development and makes education funding more equitable while limiting the use of one-time revenue to one-time expenditures.

The budget bill (2023-H 5200A) now goes to the full House of Representatives, which is slated to take it up June 9 at 2:30 p.m.

“Our goal with this budget is to support Rhode Islanders’ needs while responsibly preparing for our future. Our top priority, of course, is addressing our housing crisis, and we have worked hard, in collaboration with Governor McKee and our colleagues in the Senate, to identify the most effective ways we can direct the funding we have toward solutions that will help create more affordable housing access. This budget also strengthens our efforts to provide educational opportunities in K-12 and higher education and supports businesses, working Rhode Islanders, retirees and those struggling to meet their families’ basic needs,” said House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick). “At the same time, we are being realistic. Given the end of the federal funding related to the pandemic, we need to plan not only for next year, but for the following years, when we are not going to have the level of revenue we’ve been fortunate enough to have for the past few years. We are spending our remaining federal COVID funding and our available revenue on one-time investments rather than creating long-term commitments that we can’t sustain. This budget is responsible, and I especially want to thank the House Finance Committee, led by Chairman Marvin Abney, for their hard work studying every element of it to get us where we are today.”

Said Chairman Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown), “This budget was carefully crafted so that our residents, particularly our most vulnerable, retain the supports and assistance that they and their families need, so that our businesses have the ability and opportunity to grow, and so that Rhode Island is situated to withstand a very possible financial downtown that will affect both our state and national economies.  Responsible, compassionate and thoughtful decisions were made to create a budget that will benefit all Rhode Islanders and this budget positions the state to be as competitive as possible into the future.”

For housing, a top priority of Speaker Shekarchi, the committee recommended an additional $39 million to support housing development. That includes $27 million from State Fiscal Recovery funds for a new program that allows the Secretary of Housing to target projects, including $4 million for transit-oriented development and $4.3 million to be transferred to the Infrastructure Bank to support infrastructure necessary for housing development, such as road and utility connections.

The committee also approved, subject to an annual $30 million cap, a Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. The LIHTC program would provide a tax incentive for developers to expand subsidized housing options for low-income households. States that make LIHTC investments have been able to leverage additional federal resources and successfully close financing gaps needed to finalize development and start construction on new housing. The new program will award tax benefits to developers through a competitive process and would be capped at $30 million annually.

The committee also approved $45 million from State Fiscal Recovery funds to increase facility capacity for individuals experiencing homelessness, three times the current level. Along with the increased funding is a change that allows the money to be used for homelessness prevention and stabilization programs.

In addition, the committee fully funded Housing Secretary Stefan Pryor’s request for 21 FTEs for the State Housing Department.

The committee did not include a proposal submitted in the governor’s housing amendments authorizing eminent domain powers for the Department of Housing.

The budget includes a $45 million investment into the life sciences sector. Funds would be used for the development of much-needed wet lab incubator spaces and support grants, loans, business development and incubation services to grow this sector. The budget also creates a new quasi-public entity to coordinate life science initiatives.

To help working Rhode Islanders, the budget increases the earned income tax credit from the current 15% to 16% of the federal credit. The bill extends for another year rebates for the 4% gross receipts tax on electric bills and the 3% gross receipts tax on natural gas bills, for a total of $35 million in relief.

To support business, especially small business, the budget includes a $50,000 exemption for all businesses subject to the tangible tax, as proposed in legislation by Sen. Melissa Murray (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield) and Brandon T. Voas (D-Dist. 57, Cumberland, Central Falls). The exemption completely wipes out the tangible tax — viewed as an administrative burden for small businesses and for the municipalities that collect it— for 75% of Rhode Island businesses. The state will reimburse municipalities for the lost revenue.

The budget does not include the governor’s proposal to reduce the sales tax and corporate minimum tax or pause a scheduled $0.03 increase in the gas tax.

The bill increases funding for the Rhode Island Food Bank to help address food insecurity by $3 million.

Currently, retired public employees in the state’s pension system receive Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) every four years. The budget does not increase the amount retirees receive, but spaces the COLAs out each year so retirees receive smaller adjustments annually. In addition, the budget requests the Rhode Island General Treasurer conduct a comprehensive review of the impact of the 2011 pension overhaul and different proposals to reform the system.

In response to the struggles of school districts, the budget reforms the school funding formula by modifying poverty measures, increasing funding for multi-language learners and phasing in funding decreases due to declining enrollment. The budget allocates $20 million above the governor’s request, with $5 million going to multi-language learners and $15 million going to special education.

The bill allocates $4 million to the governor’s Learn 365 RI program for after school learning.

In higher education, the bill includes the creation of the Hope Scholarship, a pilot program proposed by Senate Majority Leader Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln) and House Education Committee Chairman Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), to cover cost of two years of tuition and mandatory fees for eligible students during their junior and senior years at Rhode Island College. The proposal is intended to increase educational opportunities and success for students, and to improve workforce development.

The budget also funds the proposed Institute for Cybersecurity & Emerging Technologies at RIC to be led by former Congressman James Langevin. The Institute will position Rhode Island to lead the region in developing highly-skilled Cybersecurity professionals through certificate, bachelor, and master’s level courses and programming while attracting leading researchers and education professionals to develop practical and policy approaches to current Cybersecurity challenges.

The state’s struggling hospitals will receive a $14 million injection of funds, $5 million of which will come from general revenue and $9 million of which will come from federal funds.

The budget will provide 15 FTEs for the Attorney General’s staff, including fully funding a new cold case unit, paid for by settlement funds.

And in anticipation of slowing economic growth in future years, the budget allocates an additional $55 million to a supplemental rainy day fund.

The budget reflects the May revenue estimate that was $61.2 million lower than projected last November.


The Supreme Court is getting rid of a Trump-era ban on "bump stocks." The court ruled Friday that the firearm accessory that allows semi-automatic rifles to fire more quickly can't be included in a 1934 law banning machine guns. The decision was 6-3 on ideological lines, striking down a regulation imposed during the Trump administration. Despite the ruling, bump stocks remain illegal in 18 states.       The Supreme Court is not yet ruling on Donald Trump's claims of presidential immunity. The court did not make a decision on the consequential case today, but may do so on June 20th when its next opinions are released. The case impacts some of Trump's pending cases, including his alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Trump argues he is immune from prosecution because his actions fell under official conduct that should be protected, and was not a private act.       Floridians can expect even more rain today after days of severe weather and flooding. Non-stop rain has drenched parts of the southern half of the state for days now -- including Miami. Governor Ron DeSantis already declared a state of emergency. Thunderstorm activity in the region is expected to subside by the weekend, but forecasters say flash flooding and urban flooding will remain possible through Saturday.       Kate, Princess of Wales, says she is making "good progress" in her treatment for cancer. In a rare statement Friday, the British royal said she is still undergoing chemotherapy and that she has "a few more months" of treatment remaining. She also announced that she will be attending a military parade Saturday to mark King Charles the Third's birthday. This will be her first official public appearance since she revealed she has cancer.       Ukraine is rejecting Russia's demands to bring the war between the two countries to an end. On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country would end the war if Ukraine agreed to certain conditions. Those include Kyiv [[ KEEV ]] dropping its ambitions to join NATO, pulling out troops from four Ukrainian provinces claimed by Moscow. The proposal from Russia came just a day after the U.S. and Ukraine agreed to a new ten-year security agreement.       The USA cricket team is continuing to make history. The team has advanced to the next stage of the men's T20 Cricket World Cup after its match against Ireland was rained out in Florida Friday. The point earned by the USA due to the game being called off meant the team qualified for the Super Eight stage of the tournament. The USA will now be placed in a group of four of the final eight teams, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the semifinal round.