No on All Bond Questions But Especially on the Black Hole, #4

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The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity has released a video by the production company of Center Chairman, Dr. Stephen Skoly, making the succinct, by-the-numbers case against all of the bond referenda.

Start with the total of these bonds to repay: $642,000,000 including interest, not just the already eye-popping $400,000,000 face value. Add, as the Center notes, that at the third highest per capita bonded debt of $10,215, Rhode Islanders are already on the hook for a very heavy burden.  And voters need to remember that a Bond Question is not simply an opinion survey about the recipient project but a loan that taxpayers must repay.  So the Center is spot on to highlight that bonding is a delayed tax.  The state’s economy, tax base and corresponding ability to repay borrowing were already in bad shape before the lockdown.  They have only worsened with the inexplicable prolonging of a destructive, completely ineffective lockdown.

Focusing now on Bond Question #4, “Transportation Infrastructure State Match”.  It’s just a match, see.  Federal dollars will fund 80% of the infrastructure project.  What a bargain!

Except it’s not a bargain.  State taxpayers would be repaying a cool $115,067,870 including interest.

Worse, Rhode Island’s infrastructure costs have been the opposite of a bargain.  Even before toll revenue – remember truck only (wink) tolls? – started coming in, Rhode Island had the 6th highest per mile “Total Disbursements per State-Controlled Lane-Mile” at $194,769/mile.  This is more per lane-mile than the first eight states on the list with the lowest per mile disbursements COMBINED.  In fact, Rhode Island, along with New Jersey and Hawaii, has the worst performing, least cost-efficient state highway system in the country.

Sixth highest spending per mile, before tolls.  Yet the state has some of the worst roads and bridges in the country. Something is very wrong with this picture.  Infrastructure spending in Rhode Island has turned into a black hole.  Hard earned dollars spiral out of taxpayers’ wallets but good infrastructure never comes out.

No for sure on #4.  Time to stop dumping money into the black hole.