- Associated Press
Saturday, June 15, 2019

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A Rhode Island legislative committee on Friday approved a nearly $9.97 billion state budget that would expand the state’s pre-kindergarten program and add six new medical marijuana dispensaries.

The budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1 was approved by the House Finance Committee with a 12-3 vote, sending the spending plan to the full House of Representatives, which is expected to take it up next week.

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello called it a “pro-business, pro-consumer budget.”

“We are fully funding the essential programs our state provides to its citizens, particularly education, and keeping our commitments without instituting new taxes or plunging our state into unjustifiable debt,” the Democrat from Cranston said in a statement.

The budget bill would add 270 more pre-K seats to the 1,080 that are already funded, but doesn’t include Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo’s proposal to expand the state’s free college tuition program.

Raimondo wanted to offer the Rhode Island Promise program to adult students at the Community College of Rhode Island and cover the last two years of a four-year degree at Rhode Island College. The program is currently offered at CCRI to recent high school graduates.

The spending plan would also expand the number of Rhode Island’s medical marijuana dispensaries, known as compassion centers, from three to nine. In the budget she unveiled in January, Raimondo had proposed legalizing recreational marijuana.

The budget plan does include Raimondo’s plan to subject digital downloads and streaming services like Netflix to the sales tax. It would also exempt feminine hygiene products from the sales tax.

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.