PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A new budget is signed, a contentious toll is shut down and Democrats decide not to choose among the gubernatorial hopefuls. Here are five things to know in Rhode Island:
The state will head into the new fiscal year, which starts July 1, with an $8.7 billion budget signed Thursday by Gov. Lincoln Chafee. The spending plan lowers the corporate tax rate from 9 percent to 7 percent, increases public education spending and honors the debt related to 38 Studios. It also includes a plan to address road and bridge projects statewide, in part through an increase in the gas tax and some fees.
TOLL SHUT DOWN
The state's bridge authority shut down the contentious toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge. The new budget eliminated the toll and established a 1-cent gas tax effective July 1, 2015, to help fund bridge and other infrastructure projects. The authority spent up to $5 million installing collection equipment on the bridge for the 10-cent toll, which had been opposed by many residents and lawmakers on Aquidneck Island and in the East Bay.
DEMOCRATS WON'T ENDORSE CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR
When Democrats gather Sunday at the Rhode Island Convention Center to endorse candidates, they won't choose among the gubernatorial hopefuls. The three leading Democrats running for governor agreed to not accept an endorsement from the Democratic Party. Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, Treasurer Gina Raimondo and former Obama administration official Clay Pell say party unity is crucial to electing a Democrat in November.
Republican gubernatorial candidates Allan Fung and Ken Block met for their first televised debate. Each threw plenty of jabs as they offered their plans to help the state's struggling economy rebound. Fung, the mayor of Cranston, touted his leadership experience, while Block, a businessman, portrayed himself as a political outsider who can fix the state. Last week's debate featuring the three leading Democrats in the race was tame by comparison.
NEW MARITIME STRATEGY
The Navy's top officer asked naval officers, scholars and students at the Naval War College for their help in updating the nation's maritime strategy. It was last revised in 2007 in the midst of two wars and before the economic recession. Adm. Jonathan Greenert, U.S. chief of naval operations, told an audience at the college that he needs their suggestions before he approves the revisions this year.