- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 2, 2016

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo on Tuesday introduced her budget plan for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. The plan calls for a total spending amount of $8.96 billion and closing an estimated $49.5 million shortfall, down from the $190.4 million deficit projected when Raimondo took office last year.



New spending in the governor’s plan includes:

-$39.1 million in additional K-12 school funding, with some of the money set aside for English learners and to bolster mostly urban school districts that have lost money because of the proliferation of charter schools.

-$5 million to expand research and development tax credits for businesses.

-$4 million to combat the opioid abuse crisis, including $2.6 million for medication-assisted treatment at the Department of Corrections.

-$1.2 million in additional early childhood development programs.

-$500,000 to allow sophomores and juniors at public high schools to take the SAT and PSAT for free.

-The expansion of earned income tax credit for low-income families to match 15 percent of the federal contribution, up from 12.5 percent.



The governor wants to pare back health department costs and shift more care to homes and out of institutions; cut $2 million from child welfare services through staff reductions and leaving positions vacant; and eliminate the Rhode Island Film & Television Office, for a savings of $332,000.



Raimondo proposes a fee on marijuana plants in the state’s medical marijuana program, which she estimates would raise $9.8 million for the state; an increase in the cigarette tax to $4 per pack from $3.75 for an estimated $7.1 million in additional revenue; and cuts to unemployment insurance taxes to save businesses about $30 million. Rhode Island had been named second-worst state for unemployment taxes.



The governor’s plan also includes raising the hourly minimum wage to $10.10 from $9.60 and placing general obligation bonds on the November ballot to pay for construction of schools, university centers, piers and other projects.

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