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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Yeah, right…the Republicans don’t want the STATE to charge tolls but private corporations can toll all they want

By Samuel Bell in Rhode Island’s Future
Flip Filippi and his magic unicorn

EDITOR’S NOTE: the other leading Republican idea to fix our broken roads and bridges is to search the couch cushions in every state agency for loose change. They call it looking for “waste, fraud and abuse.”

Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi (R/I/L- Lincoln, Providence, Charlestown, Block Island or wherever else he chooses to claim as his residence) thinks we need a constitutional amendment against highway tolls. He believes in a magic unicorn that will defecate the funds to do road and bridge repair. – W. Collette

Republican Representatives Patricia Morgan and Dan Reilly have been making a major push to stop the truck tolls in the RhodeWorks proposal. [That bill was passed and signed by the Governor just after 6 PM on Friday].

NOTE: the Morgan noted above is NOT our own local State Senator Elaine Morgan, the wingnut from Hopkinton. Elaine Morgan took it to a new level by comparing the Governor's toll plan to "Soviet Russia." What I don't understand is how these Republican legislators have decided they will side with interstate trucking companies and against the health and safety of Rhode Island drivers who face death and injury from our unsafe roads and bridges. 

With great vigor, they have branded their efforts as anti-toll, specifically making the argument that the truck tolls are a step on the way to car tolls.  

Yet despite their stated opposition to tolls, Morgan and Reilly have signed onto a bill that would drastically expand tolls in Rhode Island.

The bill, which is sponsored by conservative Democrat Jared Nunes, creates a special board with the power to privatize any transportation project, allowing private corporations to levy unrestricted tolls on Rhode Island road users. 

Under the proposal, private corporations could approach the privatization board, and the board could approve privatization with tolls without any required legislative approval.  The bill does provide for entirely optional legislative review.  

The language in the legislation is extremely broad, allowing a wide array of potential tolling schemes, including tolls on passenger cars.

As part of the Republican Policy Group’s campaign against RhodeWorks, Morgan and Reilly supported an alternate proposal without tolls.  

Controversially, their plan did not specify where all the money would come from.  At the heart of their proposal was redirecting DMV revenue, money that has already been spoken for in the state budget.  

This redirecting revenue tactic is not unique to the GOP.  During her campaign, Gina Raimondo proposed paying for school construction by redirecting sales tax revenue that was already being used in the budget.  

Despite this, the Republican Policy Group’s anti-toll plan became a major initiative of Morgan, Reilly, and other Republican representatives.

Privatizing roads and bridges to let private corporations charge tolls is a popular policy idea among Republicans across the country.  

In Indiana, for instance, Republican Governor Mitch Daniels successfully championed a plan to sell off the right to toll Interstate 90 to a foreign corporation, saying, “You’re either for this bill, or you’re against our future.”  (Later, the plan went bankrupt.)

Samuel Bell is the Rhode Island State Coordinator for the Progressive Democrats of America. My primary interest is Rhode Island's economy and what we can do to fix it.