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RI Gov. McKee proposes sending 4 major infrastructure plans to ballot box

Democratic Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee has proposed ballot initiatives pertaining to four infrastructure spending proposals valued at a total of $345 million.

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee wants voters to weigh in on four long-term infrastructure initiatives when they head to the polls in November.

The Democrat unveiled the proposals totaling $345 million this week as part of his $13.7 billion state budget plan for the 2025 fiscal year.

One of the questions would issue $135 million in bonds for higher education including $80 million for the University of Rhode Island’s Biomedical Sciences Building to help build a facility that will accelerate the life sciences industry in the state, McKee said.


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The higher education question would also provide $55 million to cover infrastructure costs at Rhode Island College’s Institute for Cybersecurity and Emerging Technologies.

A second question would let the state borrow $100 million to increase affordable and middle-income housing production, support community revitalization and promote home ownership, according to the administration.

“The Team Rhode Island budget that I’m sending to the General Assembly today prioritizes programs and initiatives that will help raise the incomes of our fellow Rhode Islanders,” McKee said in a written statement Thursday.

The budget makes key investments in education, small businesses and Rhode Island’s health care system without raising broad-based taxes. McKee said the budget also maintains the fiscal discipline Rhode Island has had over the past two years – using one-time funds for one-time investments.

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Another of the questions McKee wants voters to decide would spend $60 million for a permanent state archive and history center to store and display historical documents, including copies of the Declaration of Independence and letters from George Washington.

A fourth question would ask voters to approve $50 million in borrowing for “green economy” projects, including $20 million for infrastructure improvements at the Port of Davisville; $10 million to help restore vulnerable coastal habitats, rivers and stream floodplains; and $8 million to restore the tourism infrastructure of the Newport Cliff Walk.

In Rhode Island, a total of 163 ballot measures appeared on statewide ballots between 1985 and 2021, according to the election tracking organization Ballotpedia. A total of 128 ballot measures were approved, and 35 ballot measures were defeated.

Other highlights of the budget proposal include $15 million to improve outcomes in math and English instruction and the addition of 35 pre-kindergarten classrooms totaling 700 seats for the start of the 2024-2025 school year. That brings the total number of seats to 3,000. The state has set a goal of 5,000 pre-kindergarten seats by 2028.

The budget plan now heads to the General Assembly.

The release of the budget on Thursday came just days after McKee highlighted many of his goals for the new year in his State of the State address, including higher wages, stronger student scores and increased housing production.

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One pledge McKee made was to boost the buying power of the state’s residents in coming years by setting a goal to raise the per capita income in the state by at least $20,000 by 2030.

In a Republican response to McKee’s speech, House Minority Leader Michael W. Chippendale said the state had to do more to get its arms around the fiscal challenges ahead.

“It’s not negative to talk about the struggles our state has, and ignoring them certainly won’t make them go away,” he said. “We have to accept that these challenges exist, and that we must work together to find solutions to reverse the course we’re on.”

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