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Kansas and Rhode Island emerge from contentious budget process

August 10, 2017

After arduous processes in both Kansas and Rhode Island, the states have newly-enacted budgets in place that have retained some funding for TBED initiatives. Kansas was able to fund programs that will focus on a skilled workforce and research and development, while Rhode Island will see the creation of a pilot program for free tuition at community colleges through a scaled-back version of the governor’s proposed RI Promise.


With Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature on a $31.4 billion biennial budget for Kansas on June 27, varied national media covered the story as the end of a “failed” experiment revealing the extent of damage supply-side economics can do to a state’s public sector, infrastructure, education system, civic society and economic growth.

During the past four years in Kansas, most of the state’s active support for nurturing growth based on innovation and entrepreneurship experienced severe cuts or complete elimination. Those programs that remain in the enacted budget include:

  • Kan-Grow Engineering Fund ($21 million over the biennium; unchanged from previous budget) uses lottery proceeds for the University Engineering Initiative, intended to increase the number of engineers graduating from Kansas institutions of higher education. Each of three public research universities — Kansas State University, University of Kansas and Wichita State University — receives $3.5 million per year. 
  • Rural Opportunity Zones ($3.68 million over the biennium) program authorizes 77 counties to award five years of income tax waivers and/or $15,000 in student loan repayments for qualifying new non-Kansan residents. The ROZ program lapsed under $2.29 million of unspent funds from 2016-2017 biennial budget. However, the new biennial budget figure reflects the redirection of $1.18 million from the Economic Development Initiatives operating money to fully fund all outstanding obligations for the Student Loan Forgiveness portion of ROZ.
  • $3.36 million to fund outstanding long-term grant obligations from the now defunct Kansas Biotechnology Authority. The projects receive $2.80 million in FY 2018 and $557,000 in FY 2019.
  • Kansas EPSCOR ($1.99 million split evenly over the biennium; unchanged) is administered by the Board of Regents and is intended to be used to increase the number of award and dollar amounts awarded to Kansas research institutions by the National Science Foundation.
  • Technology Innovation & Internships ($358,568 split evenly over the biennium; unchanged from previous budget) to support curriculum development and industrial experience for career technical education institution faculty. The Kansas Board of Regents administers the program.

Rhode Island

After operating without a budget since July 1, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed the state budget (HB 5175) into law on August 3. Driven by a disagreement between the two chambers over details of phasing out the state’s car tax, the budget is highlighted by the creation of a pilot program to provide tuition-free community college titled the RI Promise. The $2.8 million appropriation for the RI Promise is a significantly scaled-back version of the $10 million plan in the governor’s budget proposal.

The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation will receive $58.6 million to lead the state’s economic development efforts including $17.8 million for the Economic Development Initiatives Fund (52.8 percent decrease) and $15.1 million for quasi–public appropriations (1.8 percent increase from FY 2017). The Quasi-Public Agencies funding includes $7.5 million for the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation with $1 million to support its innovation initiatives.

The budget includes funding for several innovation economy initiatives throughout the state, including:

  • $3.7 million in new funding to support advance manufacturing training at the Davies Career and Technical School;
  • $1.2 million for the STAC Research Alliance to support collaborative research projects across the state’s research institutions;
  • $1 million to support SBIR/STTR State Matching grant program;
  • $1 million (33 percent decrease) for the Innovation Voucher program. Of that $500,000 will go to new vouchers for R&D activities related to advanced manufacturing;
  • $250,000 to the state’s Small Business Development Center;
  • $250,000 to the Polaris Manufacturing Extension Program; and,
  • $140,000 for Urban Ventures to provide the general public and small businesses with business development assistance, through education, training and consultation.
Kansas, Rhode Islandstate budgets