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5/23/2017 House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan holds press conference to discuss repeal of truck toll law
STATE HOUSE  --  On Tuesday, May 23, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. in the House Minority Office (Room 106) at the Rhode Island State House, House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan (R-District 26 Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick) and members of the House Republican Caucus held a press conference calling for the repeal of the 2016 truck toll law.
 
Leader Morgan’s legislation (H-6109) would repeal the provisions of the general laws that created the Rhode Island Bridge Replacement, Reconstruction, and Maintenance Fund Act of 2016 (RhodeWorks), which imposes tolls on large commercial trucks, is scheduled for a hearing in the House Finance Committee on Thursday, May 25, 2017.
 
Leader Morgan said, “As session is quickly coming to a close, bills are being heard and will soon be voted upon. The time for Rhode Islanders to make their voices heard by the General Assembly is now. The Rhode Works bill is irresponsible. Its $45 million price tag will add to our already high cost of living, making it more difficult for average families to make ends meet. It will hurt small businesses and further drag our economy into the gutter. The DOT receives $500 million a year and it’s still not enough – they always want more. Unfortunately, they are making poor use of the half billion annually that we already give them.”
 
“Over the past months, as the Governor has turned our federal transportation funds into GARVEE debt and has chosen a contractor to install gantries on every major highway in our state, we have discovered a flaw in the Toll law that should make every Rhode Islander even more disgusted at the concealed ramifications of this harmful law. In an attempt to quiet the justified alarm of our in-state trucking companies, a provision to reduce in-state registration fees and allow a rebate for the use of Clean Diesel fuel was added. These provisions reduce the net worth of the toll collections by $8,825,000. Effectively, out of the projected $45 million annual toll charges, only $7,397,500 or less than 17% will be available to repair bridges. Eighty-three percent will evaporate in avoidable costs.”
 
The Truth Behind The RhodeWorks Toll Numbers
Source of Funding/Expense for the Governor's Tolling Plan Revenue/Cost
DOT Revenue Estimate $45,000,000
   
Costs and Leakage of Funds from DOT Budget  
Annual Cost of GARVEE Debt $(25,000,000)
Credit Card Fees $(1,552,500)
Annual Maintenance on Toll Booths $(700,000)
Administrative Costs $(1,125,000)
Periodic Rehabilitation and Maintenance Costs $(400,000)
Total Costs $(28,777,500)
   
Estimated New Funds $16,222,500
   
IFTA Tax Loss $(1,625,000)
Reduction of In State Registration Fees $(4,200,000)
Reduction of Out of State Registration Fees $(1,100,000)
Rebate for Clean Diesel Fund $(1,900,000)
   
Estimated Reductions in Taxes and Fees  $(8,825,000)
   
Actual Available Funds $7,397,500
Percent Spending Reduction to Pay for RhodeWorks Without Tolls 0.080%
 
“It is irresponsible for our state's leaders to pursue tolls for such a paltry end result. A net profit of less than $7.5 million cannot justify the harm tolls will do to our consumers, our small business community, our trucking companies, and to our overall economic vitality. No decision makers, who profess to be working to bring good companies with good jobs to Rhode Island, can look at these numbers and charge ahead. The toll law must be repealed.”
 
“Let's look at this another way. During testimony last year, DOT Director Alviti began checking off numerous projects that he wants to pursue. They included over a billion dollars of future construction costs. If you divide that $1 billion by $7.5 million, our annual net from tolls, it will take 135 years to complete those projects. With that sobering statistic, does anyone believe that tolls will remain collected solely on trucks? DOT will want a much larger pool of victims to increase their take.”
 
“Sadly, there is more. As you know, I have been critical of DOT's management of the funds they already have. A case in point is the 93- foot Slatersville Bridge. The cost exploded from an already exorbitant $9.2 million in January to over $13 million two months later. DOT is simply not ensuring that our tax dollars are used efficiently. They are not eliminating waste and squeezing value out of every dollar. Hardworking Rhode Islanders should be alarmed.”
 
During the 2016 legislative session, Leader Morgan questioned Peter Alviti, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation about the unconstitutionality of the truck toll law. Director Alviti admitted that the administration is looking for a “perpetual source of revenue,” despite a budget well over $500 million. Click here to watch the clip.
 
The President of the American Trucking Association (ATA), John Lynch and President of the Rhode Island Trucking Association (RITA), Chris Maxwell also joined the press conference. 
 
The ATA in conjunction with RITA has investigated the engineering inspection reports that have been commissioned by the Department of Transportation for their construction work. These reports justify and guide the scope of work that must be performed to repair our bridges.
 
“We have engaged a nationally respected engineering firm to analyze these inspection reports. They have concluded that one bridge, targeted for complete removal and replacement is structurally sound,” stated President Chris Maxwell. “The Oxford Street bridge, because of its location, is in a strategic location for placement of a toll gantry. To qualify as a location for toll collections under federal rules, it must also involve a large expenditure. In other words, the bridge must carry a big price tag, so simple maintenance will not do.”
 
He added, “Our engineers – after studying the inspection reports – have concluded that the bridge is structurally sound. It does not need to be removed and rebuilt. The fact that DOT is pursuing removal is a warning sign for state policymakers and the general public. This is not responsible policy making. It is wasting precious money in order to pursue the damaging toll law.”
 
“Collectively, we call on our legislators to repeal tolls. The toll law is badly constructed, is built of faulty assumptions and is unnecessary in the face of wasteful management and practices by our Department of Transportation. It will do far more harm than good to our state. We can and should stop it now.” said Representative Morgan. 


For more information, contact:
Raina C. Smith, House Minority Office
State House Room 106
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-2259