Dear Speaker Mattiello:
I listened with interest to your interview yesterday morning on WPRO with Gene Valicenti in which you said that you support “a” toll plan.
We won’t linger on the reasons why a toll, of any amount, on any vehicle, would be a really bad idea economically and politically for everyone in the state (except Governor Raimondo). Economically bad: it would drag down the state’s economy by adding to the cost of living, it would exacerbate the state’s business climate and it would be remarkably wasteful as half of the revenue would be completely squandered on interest and gantries. (You should be aware, by the way, that the REMI study produced earlier this month at Governor Raimondo’s order is viewed by everyone with any intelligence as completely skewed and its conclusion as derisively unbelievable.) Politically unwise – Tolls are astonishingly unpopular, as witnessed by the public uproar over the attempt, last year, to toll just one bridge way off in a corner of East Bay. Tolls would be used like a cudgel next year against every legislator who votes for them.
But important as all of that is, it is secondary to the main issue that I would put to you. Tolls would enormously benefit one person and one person only: Governor Gina Raimondo. You have undoubtedly heard the rumors that she will seek higher office rather than re-election in three years. Whatever her plans, whether she seeks the political promotion in three years or seven, if a toll plan of any kind is implemented, her political career – and no one else’s – would receive a gigantic boost, financial and otherwise, as hundreds of millions of dollars in a construction surge would turn the members of certain trades unions into her adoring slaves and contributions – some of them from the tolls themselves in the form of wages! – would flow lavishly into her campaign coffers from those unions and their members. Is there any question that this, in turn, would expand into support from national unions as the governor moves on politically from Rhode Island?
Forgive me for being direct here, Mr. Speaker. Why would you permit this to happen at every other Rhode Islander’s expense? Even stipulating for a moment that one or two other officials may benefit in a mild way from a toll plan, such a benefit would be utterly dwarfed by the out-sized boost to Governor Raimondo and her political career. It is impossible to believe, sir, that you are a supporter of Governor Raimondo’s political career to the point that you would facilitate such an enormous boon to it, to the corresponding detriment of the state.
Thank you for any consideration you might give to this matter.