- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Rhode Island’s legislature has endorsed an $8.67 billion state budget proposal, sending it to the governor for her consideration.

Tuesday’s vote in the Senate marks what is likely the final legislative step because Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo said she will sign the bill.

“This plan is intended to rebuild our schools, attract and grow companies in Rhode Island, make it easier to do business here and put people back to work,” Raimondo said in a statement. “I look forward to signing the budget later this week and continuing our partnership to spark the state’s comeback.”

The Senate voted 35-3 in favor of the spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Several senators praised the funding provision to offer full-day kindergarten in every community, a longstanding priority in the chamber.

Sen. Edward O’Neill, an independent from Lincoln, tried unsuccessfully to delay a new tax on vacation rentals slated to take effect July 1. But he still voted for the budget, calling it a good proposal.

The House passed the budget unanimously last week. Since the Senate didn’t change the plan, it heads to Raimondo.

The budget eliminates the sales tax on energy for commercial users, lowers the annual minimum corporate tax and gives Raimondo the tools she requested to encourage job creation, with some controls.

“Rhode Island is making a turn, and it’s making a turn for the better,” said Sen. Frank Lombardi, a Cranston Democrat.

The budget includes changes to the Medicaid system to lower costs, and a proposed settlement in the legal fight over Rhode Island’s public pension system overhaul.

It also exempts Social Security from the state income tax for seniors who make $80,000 or less a year and couples who make $100,000 or less, starting Jan. 1.

It continues repaying the bonds for the failed 38 Studios deal, something some senators said they didn’t like. Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s video game company got a $75 million state-backed loan before it went bankrupt in 2012, leaving state taxpayers on the hook.

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