Dear Members of the General Assembly,
Please vote against Governor Raimondo’s and Speaker Mattiello’s Rhodeworks plan that calls for Tolls and more Debt.
RI may have the worse roads and bridges, but we are also saddled with one of the highest Debt burdens in the nation – both on a per capita basis and as a percentage of Gross State Product. We simply do not need more debt.
The Governor explained to us in October that the RIDOT, which has a stunning $450+ million budget this year, was “dysfunctional” and that they “never produced start-to-finish budgets and schedules”. That is precisely the reason our roads are in such disrepair. It is NOT due to a lack of funding; rather, it is due to a lack of planning and oversight, and gross mismanagement.
Tolls will simply add to RI’s already notorious national reputation of being “anti-business”. In addition, given the General Assembly’s sorry and indisputable history of not keeping their promises with regard to revenue sources (e.g. the “temporary” sales tax increase to fund DEPCO; Lottery funds for Education), once the tolls are in, it is just a matter of time before they are used to harvest all vehicles on the roads. We all know that the provision to require General Assembly approval to expand tolling beyond heavy trucks is nothing more than a marketing gimmick and is not worth the paper it is written on. Moreover, it is not unreasonable to assume that Federal Highway funds coming to RI will eventually be reduced commensurate with the tolls from the gantries. Lastly, this is yet another example of skirting the intent of the state Constitution by foisting debt upon the taxpayers without taxpayer approval.
Resist the urge to have a repeat of 38-Studios. That is, resist the urge to create a big bang wrapped in the worn flag of “economic growth” and “creating jobs”. Instead, demand that the Governor and the Speaker do the hard work necessary to fund these projects on a pay-as-you-go basis, starting with accountability and proper management at a DOT that is already flush with cash.
[Mr. Cournoyer is a resident of Woonsocket. He sent this via e-mail to all legislators in the Rhode Island General Assembly.]