RI House to vote on $8.7B budget plan

RI Statehouse

The Rhode Island House of Representatives was poised to vote Thursday night on a proposed $8.7 billion budget.

The session began at about 3:30 p.m. and is expected to go late into the night.

"I'm very pleased with the budget. I think it's a good budget. It's a bold budget. It contains tax-cutting. It's a pro-economy budget, a pro-job creation budget, and it's going to help move the state in the right direction," House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said.

The highlights include lowering the corporate tax rate by 2 percent and raising the threshold at which the estate tax or death tax kicks in.

The first real debate was over the minimum wage.

The House passed a measure to forbid cities and towns from setting their own minimum wage, as Providence was aiming to do at $15 an hour.

"I think we're coming at this too quickly and taking a paternalistic or maternalistic approach to it by saying, 'Providence, you can't do this,'" state Rep. Edith Ajello, D-Providence, said.

But others said letting cities and towns do what they want could also allow them to drastically lower the minimum wage. Either way, businesses would be impacted differently depending on where they are located.

"You're going to create a system with a potential for chaos with 39 cities and towns having 39 different minimum wages," said state Rep. Arthur Corvese, D-North Providence, said.

The main debate over whether to make a $12.3 million payment toward the 38 Studios bonds had yet to begin.

The budget proposal also includes a $34 million increase in education funding, creation of a transportation fund to fix bridges and roads and the elimination of the Sakonnet River Bridge toll.

It would also ask voters in November to approve about $250 million in bond items.