RI Senate passes state budget

    Rhode Island State House

    The Rhode Island Senate on Monday passed an $8.7 billion budget with significant tax changes that leaders called bold, sending it to Gov. Lincoln Chafee for signature.

    The Senate approved the budget on a vote of 32-5, after about an hour of debate.

    The budget includes several tax changes, including a cut in the corporate tax and an increase in the estate tax threshold. It also contains $12.3 million for the next payment related to the failed 38 Studios deal.

    Opponents to 38 Studios bond repayment reside in the Senate, too. They don't want taxpayers to make the next installment to cover the cost of Curt Schilling's failed video game company.

    "I'm troubled most by the total lack of diligence that Rhode Island's elected and appointed officials have shown in the wake of the 38 Studios scandal. It rivals the total lack of diligence they showed getting us into that. Simply paying off that scandal, sweeping it under the rug, shows a lack of respect for taxpayers and how hard they work to give us the money that we're supposed to be spending very carefully here," state Sen. Dawson Hodgson, R-East Greenwich, said.

    But, as in the House, the budget appears to have many more supporters in the Senate than critics.

    In the early discussion, the positive reviews came from East Bay senators, thrilled the Sakonnet River Bridge tolls will be eliminated and a transportation fund will be created, even though the gas tax and the cost of an inspection sticker will go up.

    "If we're paying a fee to the DMV in the future, you can guarantee and rest assured that that DMV fee you're paying is going to transportation. I think it was an ingenious way to move forward. It wasn't my idea but I think it was a great idea that all DMV-related fees goes to transportation. Were there new increases this year? Yes there were," state Sen. Louis DiPalma, D-Tiverton, said.

    While the House debates the budget by separate articles, the Senate does it all at once.

    Chafee's spokeswoman said he intends to sign it, but not Monday.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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