- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A $9.2 billion budget plan for Rhode Island’s upcoming fiscal year is moving to a vote in the state Senate after being approved last week by the state House of Representatives.

The Senate Finance Committee voted 9-1 to approve the budget plan Tuesday, sending it to a full Senate vote scheduled for Thursday. The panel’s lone Republican voted against it.

The proposal includes tax relief for car owners, a pilot program for tuition-free community college, and general government cuts and some one-time measures to close a $134 million shortfall.

The senators on the finance committee had a discussion but little debate and no proposed amendments before voting to approve the bill Tuesday, though some senators had lingering concerns about committing to a big car-tax cut amid uncertainty in the federal government.

The proposed six-year phase-out of municipal car taxes would cost the state $26 million in the upcoming fiscal year, but if the state follows through with the full elimination of the taxes, it would cost an estimated $221 million a year after 2023.

“The concern is what does that do to our structural deficit in the out years,” said Sen. Louis DiPalma, a Middletown Democrat and vice chairman of the finance committee. “Should we have the (federal) Affordable Care Act repealed or modified, we’re looking at some serious impact to our state budget as it relates to Medicaid.”

DiPalma also expressed concerns about some one-time measures adopted to “scoop” money from one source to another to balance the budget.

“I don’t recall a budget where we had this magnitude of one-time money,” he said.

The House passed the budget plan last week on a 64-11 party line vote after an hourslong debate, with Democrats supporting and Republicans opposing.

It needs Senate approval before it can move to the desk of Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo. The new fiscal year begins Saturday.

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