Governor Donald Carcieri '65 announced last week he would neither sign nor veto the Rhode Island legislature's budget-balancing proposal, passed two weeks ago by both houses. Without his signature, the $7.2 billion plan became law last week.
In a statement to state lawmakers, Carcieri said, "I am allowing this bill to become law, but without my signature and noting my concerns. For the sake of all Rhode Islanders, I expect all these concerns will be addressed by the end of the legislative session."
Though the governor's decision drew criticism from state Republicans, a veto would not have prevented the budget's implementation, as there were enough votes in the General Assembly to easily override any veto, according to an April 8 Providence Journal article.
The supplemental budget cuts millions from municipal funding and limits changes to the state's public pension system.
The plan also contains an additional $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes, making Rhode Island's the highest such tax in the country.
The increased cost could lead to a drop in sales, resulting in decreased revenue for Rhode Island businesses, said Bill Felkner, executive director of the Ocean State Policy Research Institute, a libertarian-leaning group.
Rhode Island already has one of the highest cigarette-smuggling rates, Felkner added, and prohibitively expensive cigarettes will only cause that to increase.
The budget's provisions about labor contracts also caused some concern among Rhode Islanders.
A stipulation requiring all contracts be presented to the public before government approval, which Felkner said would have saved the state a significant amount of money, was removed from the final budget, he said. It was removed because "the unions have a great deal of control," Felkner added.
In a press conference last week, Carcieri said labor issues such as "minimum manning" provisions that were unaddressed in the budget are still harmful to cities and towns.
But many legislators were content with the final budget. "Sometimes under very, very difficult economic times, you have to put aside your differences and move the state forward, and I think this was a very good first step," House Finance Committee chairman Steven Costantino told the Journal, according to the April 8 article.
But "a lot of the money… has strings attached to it," Felkner said. "It's not the financial relief it's been portrayed to be."