As state policymakers continue to plan around the pandemic’s short- and long-term effects, RIPEC brings you a concise update on the key public policy issues impacting Rhode Island
RIPEC on the COVID-19 Pandemic
- The General Assembly relied on $120 million from the rainy day fund and nearly $100 million in federal COVID-19 funding to respond to a large shortfall in fiscal year (FY) 2020 general revenues resulting from the pandemic, as explained in a newly released RIPEC report. “Rhode Island’s FY 2020 Supplemental Budget: The General Assembly Takes the First Step in Responding to Pandemic Fallout” is the third of a series of reports on how COVID-19 is impacting Rhode Island’s fiscal position.
- In a Providence Business News op ed entitled “Pandemic offers R.I. leaders a chance to reassess priorities,” RIPEC’s President and CEO Michael DiBiase argued that the COVID-19 crisis provides policymakers with an opportunity to “think beyond simply filling gaps in a budget” and “make investments and streamline government to position Rhode Island to be stronger” than before the pandemic.
- Adjusted for inflation, Rhode Island general revenues remarkably have not exceeded their peak prior to the Great Recession—just one of the findings in RIPEC’s soon-to-be released analysis of the May 2020 Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference in regional and historic context.
- How and to what extent the Ocean State’s public K-12 schools will reopen in the fall have been questions of interest for months, and the Rhode Island Department of Education has set the wheels in motion with the release of “Back to School RI,” which sets out the state’s approach to reopening and requires districts and charters to submit a plan for limited, partial, and full in-person education scenarios.
- The governor announced this week that Rhode Island would move into phase III of the reopening, but amid increasing case numbers in other states, restrictions around large gatherings were revised downward.
What to Look for in July
- Having passed the supplemental budget for FY 2020, the General Assembly will begin to tackle the more challenging step of passing a balanced budget for FY 2021, which began on July 1. Expenditures will continue under the same spending plan as FY 2020 until a new budget is passed. Revenue shortfalls for FY 2021 are estimated to be twice as large as in the current year. Deciding on general obligation bonds for public vote in November may be the first order of business given deadlines connected with preparing the ballot.