Rhode Island voters will decide seven bond issues at a special election in March

On December 18, Governor Gina Raimondo (D) signed the 2021 state budget that included seven bond issues totaling $400 million. Rhode Island voters will decide the questions at a special election on March 2, 2021. The ballot titles, amounts, and purposes are listed below:

  • Question 1: Issues $107.3 million in bonds for the University of Rhode Island Fine Arts Center, the Rhode Island College Clarke Science Building, and the Community College of Rhode Island
  • Question 2: Issues $74 million in bonds for state beaches, parks, recreational facilities, and water projects
  • Question 3: Issues $65 million in bonds for building and renovating public housing projects
  • Question 4: Issues $71.7 million in bonds for transportation infrastructure
  • Question 5: Issues $15 million in bonds for the Early Childhood Care and Education Capital Fund
  • Question 6: Issues $7 million in bonds for the Cultural Arts and the Economy Grant Program and the State Preservation Grants Program
  • Question 7: Issues $60 million in bonds to fund improvements to industrial facilities infrastructure

To put a legislatively referred bond question before voters, a simple majority vote is required in both the Rhode Island State Senate and the Rhode Island House of Representatives. In Rhode Island, the state General Assembly must ask voters to issue general obligation bonds over $50,000, except in the case of war, insurrection, or invasion.

The bond measures were introduced into the Rhode Island General Assembly as provisions of Article II of House Bill 7171 (HB 7171) on January 16, 2020. On December 16, 2020, Article II of HB 7171 passed in a vote of 58-7, with 10 members not voting, in the state House. On December 18, 2020, the state Senate voted 31 to five, with one member not voting, to approve HB 7171.

Between 2008 and 2020, voters in Rhode Island decided on 22 bond measures, totaling $1.3 billion in principal value. Voters approved 100 percent of the bond measures, with support ranging from 55.23 percent (Question 2 of 2010) to 83.89 percent (Question 3 of 2016). Voters have not rejected a bond measure since 2006 when 50.56 percent of electors rejected a $4.0 million bond for improvements in Fort Adams State Park.

The last odd-year bond election in Rhode Island was in 1985 where nine bond measures were approved.

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