Governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo unveiled her $9.4-billion state budget plan for the year 2018-19 on Thursday, stating her intentions of legalizing sports gambling in Rhode Island and add up to a dozen new medical marijuana dispensaries to help plug the hole in her budget.
She delivered hundreds of pages of documents to the General Assembly as they start off with the annual tax-spending debate.
Raimondo wrote in an introductory letter, 'Our public school buildings are crumbling'. 'My budget includes a bold plan to make a generational investment in our school facilities,' she added.The tax and spending plan for the year would raise its expenditure by 1.5 percent, $135 million compared with the previous year.
The significant expenditure includes $20 million for the next scheduled phase of car tax elimination, $6.4 million for Raimondo’s tuition-free community college program and a request for voters to approve borrowing $250 million for public-school building repairs.
The budget revolves around $260 million in projected deficits this year and next with a combination of social service spending cuts, one-time transfers, an expansion of the sales tax, new and higher fees, more aggressive tax collections, gambling and marijuana sales.
Assuming that the US Supreme Court decision would legalize the sports betting nationally, the budget allocates $23.5 million in new state revenue by allowing people to place bets on collegiate and professional and athletic competitions at Twin River's state-operated casino.
Administration officials asserted the move would protect Rhode Island gambling revenue as states across the country eye to legalize sport betting. Connecticut is one of four states that have passed laws allowing sports betting pending the Supreme Court decision, and Massachusetts is expected to do the same, officials said.
The constitution of Rhode Island requires voter approval to introduce new types of gambling, but companion legislation introduced by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio states that the previously ballot would allow sports betting in Twin River's Lincoln or proposed Tiverton casino.
The Twin River's new casino is scheduled to open by Oct 1, but due to delays in the past, the company has agreed to pay a compensation of $2 million to the state, Twin River spokeswoman confirmed.