2002 No Action
2001 No Action
2000 No Action
1998 No Action
1995 No Action
June 29, 2000
TO THE HONORABLE, THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
I hereby transmit today, with my signature, the Fiscal Year 2001 Budget Act, House Bill 00-H 7862, Substitute A, As Amended, "An Act Making Appropriations for the Support of the State for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2001." This bill also includes revised appropriations for the support of the state for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2000.
On February 10, 2000, I submitted my FY 2001 budget recommendations to the General Assembly based upon the November 1999 revenue estimates and expenditure requirements known at that time. This budget contains an additional $156 million in revenues for the FY 2001 budget plan and the FY 2000 supplemental budget.
I am pleased that the core elements of my budget plan have been adopted by the General Assembly. The budget constitutes an endorsement of my top policy priorities for Rhode Island: education, economy, environment and health care.
This budget is a true indication of our strong commitment to education in Rhode Island. State operating aid to local schools is increased by $51 million, a 9.9 percent increase over the enacted FY 2000 budget. I am pleased that this budget enacts my full day kindergarten initiative. Full day kindergarten is vitally important to the development of our young children, and it will serve to ensure their success in school in later years.
Also important is the commitment of funds to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for progressive support and intervention in our local schools. Much of this investment is targeted for the Providence school district, which faces a great challenge in bringing about successful school reform. This budget also repeals the residency requirements that are currently in place in Providence and Pawtucket. I have vigorously advocated for this repeal, which will help ensure that we recruit the best and brightest teachers to our classrooms. I am also pleased that this budget contains my initiative to maximize Medicaid reimbursement for services provided to special education students. This will result in an additional $8.2 million for our schools.
Regarding higher education, this budget will present the voters with a $37 million bond referendum this November. The voters will be asked to support major renovations at the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College, and the development of a new Newport campus for the Community College of Rhode Island. These are all vitally important to enhancing Rhode Island's institutions. The higher education system received an additional $10.7 million in operating funds, representing a 7.0 percent increase.
This budget also makes sound investments towards improving Rhode Island's economy. The budget contains the fourth year of planned reductions in the personal income tax, continued investment in asset protection, and continued reductions in business taxes. The budget also proposes two bond referenda important to the state's economic development. The first would provide $62.5 million for transportation projects, and the second is a $25 million bond proposal for the development of the Heritage Harbor Museum. The budget also contains investments in the Slater Technology Fund to support the state's Centers of Excellence, and a substantial increase in the grant program at the Rhode Island Council on the Arts.
In this budget, the state demonstrates its strong commitment to the environment with the proposal of two bond referenda. The first is a five year $34 million bond proposal for open space and recreational projects. The second is a $60 million water quality management bond. These two bond proposals are similar to those contained in my budget submission, and I will actively advocate for the passage of these referenda in November. The Assembly also has agreed to strengthen the Department of Environmental Management, with 14 new full-time equivalent employees. This is the third straight year in which we have made significant investments in the resources of this department.
The budget makes several significant investments in health care. The Medically Needy Income Limit for seniors to become eligible for Medicaid has been raised, thus allowing more seniors access to Medicaid insurance. The budget also expands the RIPAE pharmaceutical assistance program to include more elders in the program, and to initiate coverage for anti-infective and arthritis drugs. The budget also includes funding for the adopted caseload estimates for managed care programs plus adjustments to help stabilize the Rite Care program. This investment, along with the policy work that the Assembly and the Administration have done in collaboration, is directed to assure that we continue to have a successful program that offers affordable health insurance to Rhode Islanders in need. This budget also includes significant new funding for services at the Department of Children, Youth and Families and the Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals.
I am concerned however that this budget fails to fully fund my proposal for a dedicated technology fund. While the budget does include additional funding for a financial management system and for technology improvements at the Department of Business Regulation, the budget fails to include resources for other necessary improvements in technology. Rhode Island lags behind other states in this area. Our efficiency and our customer service could be greatly improved with greater investments in technology.
Each fiscal year I introduce a budget proposal that takes a multi-year approach to managing the states finances. As you know I have always been concerned with budgets that are balanced with one-time revenues such as the prior year's surpluses. Fortunately, we have been able to deliver a surplus every year. I had originally recommended to freeze the auto excise tax phase out because of my concerns for the out-year costs. I am pleased to see that the General Assembly has modified the excise tax phase out program to address the affordability issue. However, we must continue to monitor the out-year impact of this program.
This year's budget represents another positive step in our collective efforts to invest prudently to build a better future for Rhode Island. All indications point to continued economic growth in the coming year, albeit, perhaps not to the great extent it has in the past few fiscal years. In this regard, we must continue to assess our tax and spending policies to produce a balanced budget that continues to meet the needs of the State of Rhode Island. As always, I pledge to work diligently with the General Assembly in order to keep Rhode Island moving forward.
For the foregoing reasons, I sign this bill into law.