5 key takeaways from Gov. McKee’s State of the State speech
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Dan McKee gave his State of the State address Tuesday night, reflecting on his accomplishments since taking over for Gina Raimondo in 2021 and outlining his priorities for his first full term in office.
Below are five key takeaways from McKee’s speech.
McKee touts his accomplishments so far
McKee talked broadly about the efforts his administration has made since he became governor in March 2021, highlighting key initiatives tied to climate change, expanding benefits to parents and supporting small businesses.
The governor said his first full term in office would be focused on building on that momentum, adding that he’s “more optimistic than ever about Rhode Island’s future.”
Tax relief and other budget proposals
As expected, McKee called for cutting Rhode Island’s sales tax by 15 percentage points from 7% to 6.85%, a move he estimates will save Rhode Island consumers about $35 million per year. The lowered rate would still stand above the sales tax of 6.25% in Massachusetts and 6.35% in Connecticut, although McKee suggested he’d be open to cutting it further in future years if the state’s budget remains stable.
In addition to the sales tax cut, McKee called for other relief measures including a two-year halt to the gas tax increase currently scheduled for July, estimating that would save Rhode Islanders about $25 million at the pump over that period.
The governor highlighted the state’s ongoing housing crisis, calling it one of the “most critical issues facing Rhode Island today.” He pointed to the $250 million approved during last year’s budget process and said he’s committed to expanding on that effort, which he hopes will also help address the state’s homelessness problem.
Housing has been named as a top priority by House Speaker Joe Shekarchi, who will have significant influence over McKee’s budget proposal after it’s unveiled later this week and moves into the General Assembly for consideration.
McKee has long called education one of his top priorities and he again made a call to improve educational outcomes in Rhode Island, saying he would outline a plan within 100 days of his first full term to reach Massachusetts levels by 2030. He talked about the state’s ongoing takeover of the Providence school district, and touted investments made into public school buildings across the state.
The governor also noted that public school enrollment had declined by about 5,700 students since the beginning of the pandemic, saying it’s time to “make a targeted modification to the funding formula.” The formula determines how much taxpayer support each school district receives from the state, and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio has said reforming the metric is a top priority to his rank-and-file Democrats in the Senate.
Economy and jobs
With a nod to the possibility of a recession in 2023, McKee said he would remain focused on advancing the economy in Rhode Island. He talked about projects currently in the pipeline, including a new state health lab to be built in Providence. He also said his administration has “prepared the most significant capital budget in the history of the state.”