PROVIDENCE, RI – Governor Dan McKee, joined by House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, signed the FY22 budget today at the State House. The budget makes important investments in housing, increases supports for families and child care, and provides the tools necessary to continue Rhode Island's economic recovery.
"Rhode Island's economic recovery is in full swing, and this budget gives us the tools to ensure it continues," said Governor Dan McKee. "I am proud to sign a budget that includes historic investments in housing, increased supports for hardworking families through RI Works, criminal justice reform, and crucial COVID-19 recovery funding to help us guarantee that Rhode Island emerges from this pandemic stronger than we went in. This budget represents a collaborative effort that will help Rhode Island meet this moment head on. I thank the Speaker and Senate President for their partnership. Today, we sign the budget, then our work continues."
The $13.1 billion budget pays back all of the $120 million borrowed from the state's rainy day fund at the early part of the pandemic and continues the phase-out of the car tax. This budget does not include any broad-based tax increases.
"I am immensely proud of this budget, which addresses the important needs in our state, including housing and education, while raising no broad-based taxes. This has been a collaborative effort with the Senate and Governor McKee, and I particularly want to acknowledge the dedication and hard work of the members of the House Finance Committee, who listened to hundreds of hours of public testimony that was incorporated into a budget that is compassionate, responsible and fulfills the obligations we've made to the people of Rhode Island," said House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick).
"Our budget reflects investments in many important Senate priorities, including affordable housing and homelessness, infrastructure, education, small businesses and the safety net that helps the most vulnerable, particularly children. It's a budget that ensures Rhode Island is moving forward, and I'm very grateful to Speaker Shekarchi, Governor McKee and especially the members of the Senate Finance Committee for all the hard work that went into creating this budget," said Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence).
"After experiencing the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, this budget not only protects and helps Rhode Island's struggling residents, but it will also drive Rhode Island's pandemic recovery into a successful future," said House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown). "Without broad-based tax increases and through the preservation and strengthening of services and programs that help the vulnerable, this budget is a bill that will support most Rhode Islanders attempting to get back to their normal way of life. I thank Speaker Shekarchi, Senate President Ruggerio and Governor McKee for their collaboration and leadership, as well as the dedicated members of the House Finance Committee who have spent countless hours vetting the budget and listening to the needs of the public during the committee process."
"We had tremendous opportunity with this budget, and we had to not only ensure that we have the appropriate government services, but also to ensure that we are responsible with the one-time cash infusion that we have this year. The actions we are taking will reduce our structural deficit, invest in our infrastructure, repay the money we used from our rainy day fund, and use the federal funding appropriately for investments like technology throughout government," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln). "I'm proud that we were able to include many Senate priorities, such as helping those with developmental disabilities and those with substance abuse issues, funding child care, investing in RI Works, reducing the burden on businesses and equipping police statewide with body cameras. We have made historic investments in the Department of Children, Youth and Families, including fully funding the 90-plus new employees they need to properly serve children in the state, a new computer system and flexibility to hire a high-quality director. This is a responsible budget that cares for Rhode Islanders today while investing in our collective future. I would like to thank the members of the Senate Finance Committee for the hard work and long hours they put into ensuring that this budget serves our state well."
Highlights of the budget include:
Historic investments in affordable housing: Before COVID-19, Rhode Island was facing a housing crisis – the pandemic has only exacerbated this issue for many families across our state. To help address this crisis, the budget creates the first permanent funding stream for affordable housing in Rhode Island's history. The new funding is expected to generate approximately $4 million each year for the creation of affordable housing. The budget creates a Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Housing, who will oversee housing initiatives and develop a housing plan. The budget also allocates $6 million to establish a funding stream for a pay-for-success supportive housing initiative for those experiencing homelessness.
Support to sustain Rhode Island's COVID?19 response and recovery: Rhode Island has led the nation in its vaccine rollout, surpassing the President's goal of partially vaccinating 70 percent of adults by July 4. The budget includes a net increase of $107.8 million in federal funds and restricted receipts to sustain the state's strong COVID-19 response. This includes funds to support vaccinations, testing, contact tracing, public health communications and data analytics. The budget also includes funding to support the Pandemic Recovery Office. Investments in our COVID-19 response allowed us to reopen our economy, get Rhode Islanders back to work and get our students safely back in the classroom this fall.
Continues economic development programs: The budget extends the sunsets on Commerce RI's economic development programs including the Qualified Jobs Tax Credit Program, the Rebuild Rhode Island Tax Credit Program, the Wavemaker Fellowship and Innovation Voucher program. The budget also provides additional funding for the Small Business Assistance Program – Rhode Island's first state backed small business loan program.
Investing in student success: This budget fully funds state aid to education and includes $7.7 million to fund the Rhode Island Promise program, which provides two years of free tuition at the Community College of Rhode Island to Rhode Islanders graduating high school. The budget also restores funding to the Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities, which provides services to the state's blind and visually-impaired students. The budget allocates $400,000 to cover the cost of AP Exams for students with financial need.
Funding to support child care providers: Child care is an important economic driver for families and our local economy. Rhode Island's child care providers played a crucial role in the state's COVID-19 response and will be key to our economic recovery. The budget delivers $3.6 million in federal funds to raise reimbursement rates to subsidized child care providers and over $400,000 to cap parents' copays at 7 percent of income. Additionally, it extends the emergency rate being paid to providers during the pandemic for the next six months.
Support for low-income families: The economic impact of COVID-19 had a disproportionate impact on low-income families across the state. For the first time in 30 years, the budget includes $4.3 million for a 30-percent benefit increase for Rhode Island Works, the state's cash assistance and work-readiness program for low-income families. This long overdue investment represents Rhode Island's commitment to lifting families up and ensuring our economic recovery reaches everyone.
Supports for the Department of Children Youth and Families (DCYF): This budget provides much-needed funding to address heavy caseloads and greater population needs at DCYF. Funding includes the authorization for 85 additional employees and the authority to raise the DCYF Director salary to attract a qualified candidate for the vacant position.
Long Term Services and Supports resiliency: This budget makes vital investments in home- and community-based services to rebalance Rhode Island's long-term care options. This includes rate increases for assisted and shared living, increasing the amount of personal income individuals may retain while receiving services, and providing additional pay for direct care workers that work off-hours or are trained in behavioral healthcare.
Protecting utility consumers and ensuring accountability: For years, Governor McKee fought for consumers by advocating for the Utility Service Restoration Act, legislation which establishes a concrete set of performance standards with corresponding penalties to hold utility companies accountable and protect families and small businesses in the case of an emergency. The Act, included in this year's budget, is a proven measure that delivers real results for consumers in nearby states with all fines being credited back to ratepayers. In Massachusetts, similar legislation allowed the state to recover tens of millions of dollars in fines from utility companies for insufficient performance. This budget finally holds utility companies to a higher standard in Rhode Island and ensures local ratepayers receive the benefits.
Investments in a Statewide Body Worn Camera Program: The budget takes an important step forward in strengthening trust, accountability, and transparency between law enforcement and the people they protect and serve. It provides $15 million over 5 years for the Statewide Body Worn Camera Program which seeks to equip approximately 1,700 of Rhode Island's uniformed patrol officers — across every police department and the Rhode Island State Police — with body-worn cameras over the next 12-18 months.
Crucial steps toward criminal justice reform: The budget prioritizes criminal justice reform, taking a responsible approach to reforming parole/probation and expanding opportunities for incarcerated individuals after they serve their time. The reform offers parole eligibility after 20 years of incarceration to all young people given lengthy sentences for crimes committed before age 22. It also establishes an innovative re-entry partnership between the Department of Corrections and the Department of Labor and Training to connect incarcerated individuals with post-release employment opportunities.
Protecting the Ocean State's natural resources: Our state parks and beaches are some of Rhode Island's most treasured places, providing countless families with opportunities to enjoy being outside. Rhode Island's parks, beaches, and campgrounds attract over 9 million visits a year, infusing more than $310 million into the economy. The budget makes investments in the much-needed modernization of our state parks system, grounds maintenance, as well as building maintenance and repairs and to ensure that we can take better care of our natural resources.
?Modernization of government: Modernized administrative systems are crucial to efficient government operations. The budget invests $50 million in the Information Technology Investment Fund to modernize the State's human resources, payroll, and financial management information technology systems.