The $12.7 billion Fiscal Year 2021 budget was finally passed by the Rhode Island General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Gina Raimondo in December 2020.
This budget was described as a “skinny” budget, meaning that no new measures were included vis-à-vis the FY2020 budget. That is, almost nothing proposed in January 2020 by Governor Raimondo in her recommended FY2021 budget was included in the new budget, neither efforts to increase revenue nor moves to cut spending and programs.
While it was good news that this budget avoided making any harmful cuts in jobs and services, it fell short of making important investments in Rhode Islanders in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Additionally, the budget does not make any investments that would decrease inequities based on race, ethnicity, economic status, and gender. For example, requiring private and public health plans to cover doula services, a key method of addressing disparities in maternal and infant morbidity and mortality for low-income and women of color, failed to move forward.
In March 2020, still the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, the Economic Policy Institute issued a policy brief, “COVID-19: Protecting Rhode Islanders and the State’s Economy,” outlining an effective response to the pandemic. Echoing the themes of that policy brief, our summary provides highlights of the FY2021 budget and the 2020 legislative session, organized into three groups — Basic Needs and Vital Services, Employment and Workforce Support, and Protecting and Raising Revenue — to show where harmful cuts could have been made but were not and where promising proposals were made yet not enacted, where backsliding was avoided and where steps forward remained untaken.