Speaker Shekarchi: Budget will focus on education, children

 

STATE HOUSE – The 2025 budget bill to be voted on by the House Finance Committee later today will direct Rhode Island’s resources toward children and education to strengthen the state’s future, House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi has announced.

“Through this budget, we are emphasizing education at every level and supporting children. This budget is the result of a truly collaborative process between my colleagues here in the House, House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin Abney and the dedicated members of the Committee, our partners in the Senate and Governor McKee and his team to carefully create a plan that meets the Rhode Island’s needs for education, students and children first, while addressing our challenges, such as housing and health care,” said Speaker Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick).

The House Finance Committee is scheduled to take up an amended version of the budget bill (2024-H 7225) later this evening.

While more details will be released at a media briefing before the committee meeting, Speaker Shekarchi is announcing now that the proposal will not include a late-session proposal to alter the state’s financial institutions tax, nor funding to purchase a facility owned by Citizens Bank in East Providence. He said he is absolutely interested in discussing the financial institutions tax and other measures that keeps Rhode Island competitive with our neighbors. The timing and the complexity of the recent proposal made it not ready to be put before legislators right now.

“I don’t want to be the speaker who loses Citizens Bank. I will roll up my sleeves and get to work with them over the summer so we can prefile legislation that can be vetted early in the year, but right now, we don’t have enough information to know whether this plan is the right move for our state,” said the Speaker.

The budget also will not include funding for a new state archives and museum, Speaker Shekarchi said, citing the lack of an identified site for the building or any partner organizations to help carry out the proposal. The governor’s original budget proposal included a $60 million bond that would be put before voters, but the project was estimated to cost more than $100 million.

As for other challenges facing the state, the budget will include funding for the replacement of the Washington Bridge, largely using unspent American Rescue Plan Act funding, and there will be enough additional funding to help the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority avoid any service cuts, he said. There will also be some adjustments made to the state retiree pension cost-of-living-adjustments that were suspended when the state reformed its pension system.

The Speaker — as well as Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and Governor McKee — emphasized that the budget reflects months of hearings, conversations and collaboration across state government.

“The budget that will be considered by the House Finance Committee tonight is a responsible budget resulting from a truly collaborative process among the Senate, House and the Governor’s office. In addition to our partners in the House and the Governor’s office, I particularly want to thank Senate Finance Committee Chairman Lou DiPalma, and all the members of the Finance Committee, who spent countless hours reviewing all aspects of the budget over the past several months, as well as all of my colleagues in the Senate for their input. I am pleased that the budget will invest in many Senate priorities, particularly in the areas of health care, child care, education and providing some needed relief to retirees,” said President of the Senate Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence).

“The Speaker and I are aligned in our priorities of improving the education, housing, and health of all Rhode Islanders, and this budget makes key investments in all those areas,” said Governor Dan McKee. “Like the Speaker, I too appreciate the collaborative spirit in which this budget was shaped.”

 

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