An Equity Review of the Proposed FY2025 Rhode Island Budget

Last updated: April 23, 2024


Rhode Island’s annual state budget is the most important piece of legislation proposed, debated, and enacted each year. The budget is a statement of our values and priorities and has been called a moral document. As residents of this state, we are obligated to understand whether the budget, in its many expenditures and investments, elevates our identified values and priorities. Our long national and local history of racial and other disparities, including the persistent racial wealth gap, has made it critical for Rhode Island to consider whether the proposed budget addresses equity across racial, ethnic, gender, disability, and other lines.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont included an equity evaluation of his proposed Fiscal Year 2024 and 2025 budgets put forward in February 2023, following legislation enacted in 2022. The detailed “Ensuring Equity for All” appears directly after the budget’s introductory letter. Similar legislation was first proposed in Rhode Island in 2023 and has been reproposed this session. If enacted, future budgets proposed by the governor would be accompanied by an equity statement.

The proposed Rhode Island legislation (Senator Tiara Mack’s S-2668, The Equity Impact Assessment and Budget Equity Impact Act), like the Connecticut legislation, mandates “an explanation of the manner in which provisions of the budget further the Governor’s efforts to ensure equity in the state.” The explanation would consider equity in terms of “efforts, regulations, policies, programs, standards, processes and any other functions of government or principles of law and governance” seeking to do any of three things:

  • “Identify and remedy past and present patterns of discrimination or inequality…and disparities in outcome”
  • “Ensure that such patterns of discrimination, inequality and disparities in outcome, whether intentional or unintentional, are neither reinforced nor perpetuated”
  • “Prevent the emergence and persistence of foreseeable future patterns of discrimination…or disparities in outcome”

The proposal calls for considering equity and disparities in terms of the population groups identified in Rhode Island’s Fair Employment Practices statute, §28-5-7(1)(i): race or color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, age, or country of ancestral origin.

This proposal is part of an omnibus bill addressing the equity impact of legislation more broadly and would also require that equity considerations be integrated into the budget development process at the agency level.

The following offers an example of an equity review for the recently proposed Rhode Island FY2025 budget. The review seeks to address a broad array of policy issues; it is not intended as a comprehensive review of all policies or of the entire state budget.

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