Content Types


Constitutional Amendment Limiting New Tolls to be Heard Alongside the Rhode Works Bill

Today, the Rhode Works plan, which creates a system for tolling trucks across the network of Rhode Island highways, will have its first hearing in the RI Senate Finance Committee….the Senate Finance Committee will also hear a bill today to send to the voters a constitutional amendment which would require that any future car tolls be directly approved by voter referendum….and there is no reason why both bills shouldn’t move through the legislative process together — unless, of course, the plan all along has been to use truck tolls as a stepping stone towards car tolls.

Any legislator who votes for the Rhode Works bill without also voting for the constitutional amendment will be voting for truck tolls now with an option for car tolls later.

James Cournoyer: Tolls – Resist the Urge to Create a Big Bang Wrapped in the Worn Flag of “Economic Growth” and “Creating Jobs”

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”.

APRA, and Is the Rhode Island College Foundation Risking Its c3 Status?

Skirting the edge of government agency with its hiring of the state’s chief innovation officer, the Rhode Island College Foundation may become subject to public rules and even risk its nonprofit status.

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The Fruits of Halting Education Reform

Through the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, I put out a one-page report today, time to coincide with National School Choice Week. Using data available through the Center’s interactive application to review state-level results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests, the one-pager points out something that I’ve noted before: Rhode Island actually gained ground through much of the last decade, particularly among disadvantaged students, but hit a hard ceiling when reforms were halted. Here’s one of the charts from the report with an added political dimension that’s quite striking:


As the General Assembly promises to knock around charter schools this session (with some reforms that I actually break from school choice allies in supporting), Rhode Islanders should rouse themselves at least a little bit to insist that the special interests who control our state — in particular, public education — must be made to step aside in the interest of real, secure, long-term school choice that stops funding government-branded schools and starts funding education. In other words, we need real school choice in the Ocean State.

December 2015 Employment: Despite Unemployment Rate, Down Note for the Year

As we approach a likely downward revision in employment numbers for Rhode Island, late 2015 has already lost a substantial amount of the gains made in the early and middle parts of the year.

November 2015 Employment: A Fitting Way to End the Year

Rhode Island’s final employment report for the year continues the trend that has come to define it: a lower unemployment rate resulting from bigger losses in labor force than employment.

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Ten Thoughts on Ted Cruz

With Ted Cruz in the lead in the GOP primary race, Erica Grieder’s profile suggests he’s pretty much what you’d expect him to be, if you thought about it.

Picking a Strategy That Suits the Governor, Not Her State

Governor Raimondo’s approach to economic development is to force a lower-skilled, lower-income population to subsidize jobs for higher-skilled, higher-income people from other states.

How Long Will Rhode Islanders Take the Abuse from Government?

Public sector pay, tolls, and regulation of political activity all point to a dangerous, unstable future for Rhode Island.

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Investigative Report

Governor Outsources State’s Chief Innovation Officer in Constitutional Loophole

Despite the insinuations of press reports, Governor Raimondo’s new chief innovation officer official works for and reports to a private nonprofit associated with Rhode Island College and may not have been subject to any legislative review, as required by the state constitution.

UPDATED: Out-of-State-Trucker Revenue and the Effect of Tolls

Out-of-state truckers already pay taxes and fees on a per-mile basis, in Rhode Island, and new tolls could have a detrimental effect on revenue and the economy.

Gordon Proctor Report Contradictory Pretense to Bolster Laborers’ Union at RIDOT

Governor Raimondo appears to have used an outside report on the project development and management practices of the state Dept. of Transportation as a pretense for shifting intended hires in that area to different purposes that increase membership in her new director’s labor union.

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Longer Twitter

Raimondo’s Putting It Right in Your Faces, Rhode Islanders; React to It

Every day, it seems, we get more evidence that Rhode Island’s ruling elite are done with pretenses about how they believe our system of government should work. It could just be, of course, that they aren’t sufficiently self aware — or sufficiently inclined to think about the consequences of their own demonstrated political philosophy. In that case, though, I wonder why the news media and activists aren’t calling them on something to which we all obviously need to be attuned.

Here it is, with everything short of a highlighting, slipping right by in Ted Nesi’s summary of Governor Gina Raimondo’s appearance on Newsmakers, this week:

As for all those companies howling [about truck tolls], Raimondo said state leaders “are very open to the possibility of coming up with an economic package that would take these concerns into account.” Keep an eye out for that.

This is nothing more nor less than admission that state government is more than happy to create loopholes and buyoffs for companies that are able to bring enough political heat. This is exactly Rhode Island’s core problem, politically and economically. If you can’t get a special deal from the state, you’re out of luck. (And, by the way, special deals can come in the form of hindering competition.)

Since this apparently isn’t obvious to everybody, let’s think it through: The state imposes tolls on large trucks. Either collectively or individually, businesses that are particularly hard hit appeal to the politicians, who craft specific carve-outs elsewhere in the budget — money taken from one pocket is simply placed in another. In order to place money in the second pocket, the government either has to redirect funds from other purposes (mainly by draining down the general fund) or come up with yet another source of revenue.

Why would politicians want to operate this way? Because they get to be the check point. The businesses are now reliant on the politicians to keep the special deal in place, and everybody else sees quite clearly that bowing to the politicians is a necessary part of operating in the Ocean State.

Postscript: For some reason I don’t understand, WPRI reporters Ted Nesi and Tim White let Raimondo repeatedly get away with the untruth that the tolls are capped at $20. Unless I’m missing something, the legislation is quite clear on this point: The $20 cap is on one truck going one way across the state, all on Route 95. These are truly the out-of-state trucks that everybody claims they want to target. The actual cap is double that — $40 during a full day.

It’s especially rich that Raimondo repeats this untruth so frequently, considering that she accuses truckers of lying about their likelihood of rerouting.

About Hitting Out-of-State Trucks for 60% of Tolls

An assertion made repeatedly by pro-toll people at the House Finance hearing on Thursday was that out-of-state truckers will pay 60% of the bill. A commenter on this site just made the same point:

At the hearing it was said that 60% of the toll revenue would come from out of state large trucks. I don’t understand why toll opponents want only RIers to pay for road repairs, especially as those large trucks do significant damage.

The first point to make in response is that the objection isn’t to people out of state helping to pay for our infrastructure. The problem is: To get out-of-staters to pay 60% of tolls, Rhode Islanders have to pay the other 40% on top of all of the already-high taxes and fees they pay to government. The argument is akin to expressing disbelief that somebody objects to paying $4,000 more for cable TV on the grounds that the bill is actually going up $10,000, but is discounted by $6,000. In other words, it’s the kind of argument that only sounds good in government debates in which facts and the truth don’t matter.

Speaking of the truth, though, unless there’s a new source for this 60% claim, it comes from a study by CDM Smith. Unfortunately, as I’ve written before, that study doesn’t account for diversion. In October, I found:

Just for illustration of the effects that change could have, if we apply the diversion evenly across all routes and assume the extreme that all diversion would come from out-of-state truckers, then the percentage of traffic more than flips. In-state trucks would account for 60% of all truck traffic in the state.

Applying rough ratios for a multi-trip discount and assuming the discounts would all go to in-state truckers, they would still be responsible for nearly 57% of all tolls, or $34 million per year, if the goal is $60 million in revenue. That’s more than $10 million larger than implied by CDM.

On the broader argument about user fees, as I’ve written often before, it would generally be a good thing to transition from broad-based taxes to user fees, but that’s not what we’re getting, here. State and local governments have maxed out the taxes they can collect from Rhode Islanders, so they’re using this stuff about a “user fee” as an excuse to raise even more money. By all means, get people who use a service to pay for it, but when we’re already paying for it and won’t be getting that money back, increasing revenue is simply a money grab for special interests.

Left-Wing Criterion of the Associated Press

Perhaps it’s more impression than reality, but it seems as if a growing number of conservatives… no, that’s too narrow; make it non-leftists… are catching on to the implicit double-standards of modern political talk. Just as a politician who is both a minority and a conservative often isn’t treated as a valid minority, a journalist who approaches his work with a conservative perspective can’t rely on supposedly objective news media to have his back on principle. Look, for instance, at this stunning opening paragraph of an Associated Press article by Juan Lozano:

An antiabortion activist’s plan to reject a plea deal offering probation for charges related to making undercover Planned Parenthood videos likely means his goal is to use a trial as a public platform to criticize the nonprofit group, according to legal experts.

Even if the AP sees a bright line between David Daleiden’s “activism” and the “journalism” of investigative news teams, mainly on television, that use similar methods, one would think their presentation would be a bit more nuanced. After all, Daleiden’s case cannot be considered apart from his methods, which were indistinguishable from some forms of journalism.

It’s dawning on conservatives and moderates, finally, that there’s no sense expecting credit for acting on shared principles in cases like this, just as it’s dawning on them that there’s no sense mouthing identity-politics pieties for which they will never receive credit.

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Interviews & Profiles

Arthur Christopher Schaper: Cicilline’s “Grand Theft Auto” Sanctuary City

Arthur Christopher Schaper asks illegal immigration expert Jessica Vaughn about the consequences of sanctuary city policies under former Providence Mayor David Cicilline.

10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 46 (Congressional Debates)

Rob Paquin and Bob Plain discuss the candidates for U.S. Congress from Rhode Island (mostly by way of the issues).

10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 45 (Secretary of State Debate)

Rob Paquin and Bob Plain discuss a debate between candidates for RI Secretary of State and related topics.

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