March 6, 2016
Every time Rhode Island gets a windfall we seem to squander it. It started first in 2002 and again in 2007 with revenue from the Tobacco Settlement. In November 1998 attorneys general from across the country won a $200 Billion settlement form the tobacco industry to settle the health care costs of smoking.
Then Wall Street knocked on state doors with an offer for cash upfront for those governments willing to trade investors the right to some or all of their tobacco payments. State after state struck deals that critics derided as “payday loans” but which state proponents deemed only as prudent. Private investors, not the taxpayers, would take the hit if people smoked less and the tobacco money fell short.
In 2002 and 2007 Rhode Island politicians used these offers to help balance the state budget. “Tobacco Bonds” were issued by the state to private investors. Investors were promised large payouts on the bonds. These were high risk bonds that were hard to sell.
According to a GoLocalProv.com article “Rhode Island is now facing $2.8 billion in debt on capital appreciation tobacco bonds due in 2052” – (Tuesday, August 12, 2014) Where was this used again? Why with #38Studios!
Now the second windfall General Assembly politicians squandered was The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 better known as The Stimulus Plan. Rhode Island received almost $1.1 Billion to use on our crumbling roads and bridges for Shovel Ready Projects.
These are the very same bridges that the #RhodeWorks and #Toll plan was just voted on in 2016, seven years later. What happened to the money? According to GoLocalProv.com “just under 9 percent ($95,493,854) of the $1.096 billion that Rhode Island received was given to” the RI DOT. – (Monday, June 29, 2015)
Remember how Governor Raimondo claimed originally we needed $1.2 Billion to fix RI’s Roads and Bridges? What did the General Assembly do with the rest? They spent $340M on Education, $206.8M on Transportation; $118.6M on Infrastructure; $104.3M on Health; $84M on Science; $79.5 on Energy; $49.4 on Housing; $47.6 on Unemployment; $28.9 on Public Safety; $18M on Family; $19.3 on Other.
This is why RI struggles with revenue and poor infrastructure, we divert it to plug holes in our state budget rather than what we should be doing, fixing our state.
Are you getting it yet?
As I See It:
The real purpose of #RhodeWorks is the eventual tolling of cars in Rhode Island. But wait a minute you say. The General Assembly stated emphatically that cars will never be tolled. It’s written right in the legislation!
And I have some bottom land in the Great Swamp for sale.
As I See It this is how it will unfold.
The RI DOT will ask for bids, the lowest bidder will win and 14 Portable Toll Gantries will be erected around the state highways and along the interstate within 16 to 24 months. The first tractor trailer truck that passes through a gantry and receives a bill will submit that bill to their attorney. The attorney will turn around and bring suit against the RI DOT and the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations for violating the Commerce Clause which prevents states from regulating the economy.
“At least four possible interpretations of the Commerce Clause have been proposed. First, it has been suggested that the Clause gives Congress the exclusive power to regulate commerce. Under this interpretation, states are divested of all power to regulate interstate commerce. Second, it has been suggested that the Clause gives Congress and the states concurrent power to regulate commerce. Under this view, state regulation of commerce is invalid only when it is preempted by federal law. Third, it has been suggested that the Clause assumes that Congress and the states each have their own mutually exclusive zones of regulatory power. Under this interpretation, it becomes the job of the courts to determine whether one sovereign has invaded the exclusive regulatory zone of the other. Finally, it has been suggested that the Clause by its own force divests states of the power to regulate commerce in certain ways, but the states and Congress retain concurrent power to regulate commerce in many other ways. This fourth interpretation, a complicated hybrid of two others, turns out to be the approach taken by the Court in its decisions interpreting the Commerce Clause. “ (http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/statecommerce.htm)
Based upon the above data, the judicial ruling could very well go against the state and the RI DOT. If that happens, then the tolls of large trucks will be considered illegal. What to do, what to do.
Solution, since the gantries are already in place, and since the state has invested millions in their construction, and since Democrats can never be trusted to do the right thing for their constituents or themselves, they will be forced, Forced I Tell You! – to toll trucks, motor homes, cars, trucks, bikes, tricycles, and baby carriages.
They will convene and simply delete the language from the existing law preventing the tolling of cars and viola! – Another tax for the average RI driver to absorb. Of course they will start off small but in time the tolls will increase, because that is what tolls do. Tolls are Taxes and Democrats love their Taxes.
And that is how I See It.