As Rhode Island’s citizens and businesses are struggling to return to economic stability, elements within the Assembly are advocating for a proposal that will make life more expensive for us all. They are pushing the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), a plan that will bring higher fuel costs to all citizens and businesses and expand Government control over our lives.
The Covid-19 Crisis has left the Rhode Island economy in a damaged condition, especially for small businesses and those who work in them. The TCI will add to the cost of the family budget as gasoline prices rise. It will also add to the cost of operating a business in a state which is already the most hostile in the nation to small business. Fuel cost are a component of everything we purchase in the stores. The State’s taking of money from the economy is very unwise when the people of Rhode Island are trying to regain their financial footing. The TCI is also being proposed by the Assembly in a climate of rising fuel prices as the Federal government moves to restrict oil production.
The Portsmouth Council is in full support of the Transportation and Climate Initiative and has placed it first among their recommendations to Portsmouth’s Assembly delegation in their Legislative Priorities. That action was taken at the Council’s January 25 meeting when it adopted the priority labeled Support legislation making Portsmouth more resilient. While it did not identify the TCI, that was what this recommendation was all about.
The Transportation and Climate Initiative is an agreement among a number of Eastern state governors that has been advanced in recent years. Former Governor Raimundo quietly signed the agreement on behalf of Rhode Island. While she may have signed the TCI memorandum of understanding, these agreements must be followed by Assembly legislation in order to impose the new tax.
The participating states are: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.
The TCI initiative will impose a tax on fuel suppliers as they bring gasoline and diesel fuel into the state. These taxes are planned to start at about 5 to 9 cents per gallon, which according to the TCI memorandum of understanding, would decrease fuel use by 26 %. This seems unrealistic to those at Tuffs University who have studied the proposal and who predict a much smaller reduction in fuel usage. They also expect gasoline costs to increase 38 cents per gallon within five years.
The official purpose of the TCI tax is to discourage the use of motor vehicles that use carbon-based fuels by increasing the cost of gasoline and diesel to the point where use declines significantly. This will be a punitive policy. Advocates for TCI believe that the heavy hand of government is necessary to ensure we all behave as they deem appropriate.
The opportunistic side of TCI is that it provides an excuse to pass new taxes under the guise of Climate improvement. This will open up a new “sin” tax and bring all the abuses that have attended the sin taxes we have now on tobacco and liquor. If the climate does not improve to TCI standards, our gas taxes will rise until they do.
The TCI is not likely to achieve its goals as people must go to work and shop. We also do not have access to effective electric vehicles. In addition, Rhode Island already has some of the highest electricity rates in the country, and any increase in demand will impact the rate payers.
The TCI approach is one that uses the power of government to force decisions upon people who would otherwise avoid them. This approach also involves the manipulation of the marketplace by government, which has often produced unanticipated and disruptive results.
The people of our state already have an intrusive, expensive and dominating government; we do not need more of the same.