I have heard that Rossi is basically a (very small) step up from rentals. I have heard good things about the Triarc and also the Hatchet if you come across one. Not too press my setup onto you, but I really like the Burton Moto boots I have. And Rome 390 bindings are just about the best you can get for under $200.
Also, where will you be riding? I'm stuck with Boston Mils/Brandywine this year till I get my liscence and can head up to Peak'n Peek.