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Monday, October 31, 2016

Since when did Republicans become the interstate trucking industry’s lobby?

GOP puts trucking interests ahead of the public interest
By Will Collette

Source: Rhode Island DOT
For most of this election, Rhode Island Republicans have been beating the drum on one issue: unless voters elect Republicans, motorists driving on I-95 MAY at some unspecified future date have to pay tolls.

There’s no evidence to support that prediction. However, there are present day FACTS. RI has some of the country’s worst bridges and roadways. These already cost us in car crashes, damage to vehicles, blown tires and damaged wheels, plus time lost in traffic jams.

Democrats pushed the RhodeWorks plan to repair all those roads and bridges without delay. Already, there are RhodeWorks projects all over the state fixing some of our worst bridges and, incidentally, putting a lot of unemployed construction workers back on the jobs.

Check out the work that’s being down on the rotten underbelly of the Route One bridges going through Wakefield to see not only how bad the problem really is, but how quickly the state RhodeWorks program can get to work on the solution.

Meanwhile, Republicans have become lobbyists for the interstate trucking industry.

Republicans seem to think road repairs can fund themselves, or that they can find enough loose change by searching the chair cushions in state office buildings.

They expected to fund it from waste and fraud, kicking off a big “Waste-O-Meter” media gimmick last winter. They found a few million in projects that in their opinion might be unwarranted, but hardly enough to fix even one bridge, so we don’t hear about the “Waste-O-Meter” any more.

Image result for elaine morgan RI
Elaine Morgan thinks the Russians
are coming
Some Republicans are looking to sell off our state roads to private companies who would toll each and every single driver. And they tell you they want to protect you from car tolls? Yeah, right.

For decades, we have been under-funding and neglecting highway and bridge repair and maintenance. Only an idiot (or a Republican) can fail to see that we need to raise and spend some serious money to deal with this public safety menace.

Democrats enacted legislation to finance RhodeWorks through tolls on interstate trucking. Studies showed those big rigs are the major cause of damage to our roads and bridges. The state truck toll plan was just recently approved by the federal Transportation Department.

Normally, Republicans LOVE “user fees” like this, but this time, I guess the interstate trucking industry made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.

Instead of embracing truck tolls, the state GOP wants voters to believe they are a threat. Hopkinton state Senator Elaine Morgan even likened truck tolls to “Soviet Russia.”

Charlestown’s libertarian Republican state Representative Blake Filippi wants a state Constitutional amendment to ban car tolls.

But Filippi is going against one of his own basic Libertarian tenets that what few public services there are should be paid through user fees, not taxes. That doesn’t fit this year’s GOP narrative, I guess.

Flip thinks a magic unicorn or a 
Constitutional Amendment
is what we need.
In my view, if we want to change the state Constitution, I’d prefer a Constitutional right to a safe and reliable transportation system.

Look, nobody is especially thrilled at having to pay for things, whether it’s private goods or government services, if you think you can get away with it for free. But taxes, prices and fees, including tolls, are the price we have to pay to get what we need and want. 

As Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes put it, “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.”

Republicans want you to believe there is a monster called car tolls hiding under the bed. They want you to believe you can have safe roads and bridges without anyone having to pay for it.

They don’t want you to see the clear and present danger in all those bad bridges and roads. Who better to pay for that essential work than those who caused most of the damage?