Well, it appears that Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (D, Cranston) was impressed with the analysis finding that borrowing around $500 million, at the cost of around $600 million in financing and other fees and grabbing $400 million in federal funding might add $500 million to the local economy. Thirty-three cents on the dollar?* What a bargain!
Unless a wave of new candidates begins proclaiming an intention to run against the Rhode Island establishment soon, it looks like we’ll be getting tolls, and a narrow range of unionized labor and government operatives will be made very wealthy, cycling gobs of money back to the politicians as campaign contributions and in-kind donations.
Apart from those targeted boons, what does the future hold for Rhode Island? For one thing, it’s a reasonably safe bet that such a massive influx of money will mean the newly funded projects will prove too much for an incompetent (and now union-run) Department of Transportation to handle, producing a great deal of waste. And the money will prove too much for the state government to avoid an escalation of its usual corruption. That means the money won’t go as far as it’s projected to go toward improving infrastructure.
Meanwhile, the state’s analysis suggests that 25% of all truck traffic will find alternative routes to avoid Rhode Island, but that will prove very low. Additionally, some not-insignificant percentage of local truckers (who are supposed to provide about half of the revenue, according to Mattiello’s commentary) will simply hop the border or relocate farther away. That means the revenue will come in short, and we’ll have to make it up somehow.
The state will do so either with increases in broad-based taxes (if the politicians are trying to disguise what’s happening) or by expanding tolls to include passenger cars. Considering that we’ll have to find new tax money to subsidize all of the low-income immigrants that our sanctuary-state status will continue to attract and to fund all of the new welfare programs that we’re going to be handing out through our “first in the nation” Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP), I’d wager on expanded tolls on top of increased taxes and fees.
Oh, and don’t forget that the massive pension avalanche is going to become an undeniable problem in a few years, with investment returns continuing to come in well below what the governor estimated when she was treasurer, and we’re going to be hooking whole new industries, in the state, on government subsidies funded through a one-time debt refinance, not to mention our new adventures in subsidized housing and manipulative zoning that will attract more people wanting subsidies while driving ladder-climbing families out of the state to find the sorts of communities in which they actually want to live.
Then we’ll spend 10 years arguing over whether or not this is what’s happening. Our economy will not have recovered. We’ll still have abysmal infrastructure. We’ll have an expensive tolling system. We’ll have a massive debt bill (that voters never approved) still to pay off. And the balance of the electorate will be so far to the big-government end that there will be absolutely no way to turn things around.
The Chafee-Fox years were deeply embarrassing for Rhode Island in a number of ways, but the era of Raimondo and Mattiello is shaping up to spell the end of the state.
* Note that I haven’t gone through the REMI analysis, yet. This is a riff based on what I’ve read in the news.