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10/7/2015 No Tolls for the Republican Policy Group Bridge Repair Plan Using Existing Funds: Less than 1% of State Budget

STATE HOUSE - The Republican Policy Group, consisting of Chairman Representative Patricia Morgan (R–District 26, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), Representative Michael Chippendale (R–District 40, Foster, Glocester, Coventry), Representative Anthony Giarrusso (R–District 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), Representative Blake Filippi (R-District 36, Charlestown, South Kingstown, Westerly, New Shoreham), Representative Sherry Roberts (R-District 29, Coventry, West Greenwich), Representative Dan Reilly (R-District 72, Middletown, Portsmouth), Representative Justin Price (R-District 29, Exeter, Hopkinton, Richmond), Senator Nick Kettle (R-District 21, Coventry, Foster, Scituate, West Greenwich,), Senator Mark Gee (R-District 35, East Greenwich, Narragansett, North Kingstown, South Kingstown), and Senator Elaine Morgan (R-District 34, Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich) release this statement:

The Republican Policy Group has released their Bridge Repair Plan. The amended plan does not contain any new taxes, fees or tolls, but largely relies solely on existing funds that are already collected from Rhode Island's taxpayers.

"We agree with Governor Raimondo that our bridges are in deplorable condition and we must begin to fix them now, not later. As a safety issue, it must be our highest priority. With that being said, tolling all our major highways is the wrong policy for Rhode Island. We already are a highly-taxed state – and additional taxes in the form of tolls will hurt our residents, our businesses and our economy."

"In the same timeframe as the Governor’s toll proposal, we can fix our bridges using current funds at far less cost to taxpayers. Our plan eliminates the need to construct and maintain 17-20 toll gantries, as well as the ongoing expenses to run the toll program.

"Commercial tolls will be passed along to Rhode Islanders through increased costs. Not only does our plan eliminate that risk but also our plan prevents the need for gantries. Without gantries there is no risk that passenger vehicles will be tolled in the future.”

“Perhaps most important, our plan eliminates the need to borrow money to fund our bridge repairs – saving taxpayers nearly $600 Million in borrowing costs. As you remember, the Governor proposed her tolling plan only 3 weeks before the end of our last session. We quickly realized that the plan calls for paying $1.2 billion over the life of the bond in order to get $700 million today – irresponsibly burdening our children. Although Wall Street and major law firms surely want our $600 million in borrowing costs, we feel it should stay in Rhode Islander’s pockets.”

“Luckily, passage of the Governor’s toll proposal stalled, giving us time to dissect the existing budget to find the money. Rhode Island has an $8.7 billion budget. The yearly expenditures we propose represent less than 1% of that total, and we have identified existing funds to finance the effort.

While others may reasonably differ with the sources we choose to reallocate, we are willing to study any alternative from existing spending. What we will not consider are any proposals that employ massive debt financing or tolls that will burden our state's consumers, trucking industry and businesses for decades to come."

"Although the Republican Policy Group plan provides $250 million more funding than the Governor’s most recent proposal, it is also necessary for RIDOT to make the structural changes in its operations to maximize the value of each dollar. Cost overruns, sub-standard materials and faulty workmanship must be failures of the past. Waste and inefficient systems must be eliminated. We are happy to see that the Governor has taken the necessary first steps to reform this essential department and we expect continued progress."

"The bottom line is that our taxpayers already give more than enough money through taxes, fees, and tolls. The RPG’s Bridge Repair Plan details the areas where that money can be found in our current budget. A responsible commitment from the General Assembly to allocate these funds over the next ten years, together with a reformed RIDOT, will bring all bridges into the safe, strong condition that our state's travelers expect.”

For a copy of the plan, please contact Lisa Blais at lblais@rilin.state.ri.us.



For more information, contact:
Lisa Blais, House Minority Office
State House Room 106
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-2259