Mixed Reaction to Budget Highlights

As details of the governor's proposed budget start to leak out, a mixed reaction in the upper reaches of the General Assembly.

Chafee's proposal to lower the sales tax rate from 7 to 6 percent, while broadening the items covered, has some appeal - the 1 percent drop can be sold to the public, perhaps, even if more items are covered.

But his push to create a two-tiered system - with some previously exempt items to be taxed at 1 percent - isn't generating a lot of enthusiasm. The new 1 percent tax looks too much like, well, a new 1 percent tax.

A call for heftier public employee contributions to the pension system, as the ProJo suggested today, also faces tough sledding. And not just because of opposition from union officials, who note that their members took several blows in two recent rounds of pension reform.

There are also some members of the Assembly who were hoping for comprehensive pension reform, now, to go along with any proposed hikes in contributions. And in the short term, that doesn't appear to be forthcoming. 

Some of the governor's proposed spending - implementing the new education funding formula, for instance, or directing special aid to cities that fund their pension obligations (the Race to the Top model continues to spread) - is getting a warmer reception, naturally.

All of this is fluid, of course. Observers will be watching the governor's budget address closely tonight to get a better handle on the details. And there are many a legislative hearing to come.

As the budget takes center stage, whither the gay marriage bill? As of this morning, no vote scheduled this week in the House Judiciary Committee.


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