McKee’s FY25 budget is a mixed bag


As sure as life, death, and the Buffalo Bills losing in a high-stakes playoff game, so too is there a certainty that no state budget will satisfy every taxpayer that ultimately helps to foot the bill.

Governor Dan McKee last week announced his budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, and with it comes a litany of decisions that will be deliberated by the legislature for the next few months. Almost certainly, crucial elements of this initial budget proposal will be amended to reflect various different priorities by the time the document is signed and ratified this spring.

However, the initial glimpse into Gov. McKee’s priorities based on this first draft of the budget is illuminating.

With the fire hose of federal COVID relief dollars reducing down to a trickle, it was expected that the state’s record-high $14 billion budget of last year would need to shrink to accommodate those lost funds.

But is $13.7 billion (as proposed) small enough?

We would posit that even more fat could have been trimmed from this budget in the name of a more fiscally conservative approach, which seems prudent now more than ever.

While there is no broad-based tax increases in this budget, we have to wonder why there was a need to include a corporate tax cut amounting to a $6.1 million spend, and a seemingly trivial estate tax elimination that cost around a quarter of a million dollars. Is eliminating a $50 transactional fee on someone receiving a $1.7 million inheritance (the minimum value estate subject to the fee) really a priority here?

We’re also dubious of the proposal to ask voters to approve $60 million in borrowing for a new state archives building. While we are staunch supporters of preserving and celebrating Rhode Island’s prolific history, we hardly see the construction of a brand new building as a worthy endeavor worth entering the state into future debt. In fact, it’s a little ironic isn’t it? Why not find a way to incorporate an existing, historic building that needs some love to be the recipient of some restoration money and become the new home of these historic documents? Surely we can find a way to do that for less than $60 million.

We support the initiative to continue infusing dollars towards creating more affordable housing, however we are a little concerned that the state still lacks a top-down approach on how to actually create this housing. The bills championed by Speaker Shekarchi and passed last session provide developers more tools to build new projects, but it appears there is a need for some more big picture strategizing on where these developments would be best built, and what the most efficient means of actually creating more affordable units is.

The governor’s prioritization of providing more funding for Pre-K and multi-lingual learners is praiseworthy, as we must continue to climb out of the bottom quarter of the country when sharing a border with the nation’s educational powerhouse. As is the bond proposal to invest in building biomedical sciences and cybersecurity hubs at two of the state universities.

While taxpayers will be happy not to see any broad-based tax increases, we find the budget to still be troublingly inflated, during a time when the financial health and security of Rhode Island residents, and the state as a whole, is anything but certain moving forward.


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