Photo Credit MassLive and The Republican
Porkulus Lite, Governor Raimondo’s Toll Road to Washington
We’re all still smarting as will our children’s children from the colossal train wreck of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The White House and media handle that came to be known as “The Stimulus”, was rightfully christened “Porkulus” in opposition and conservative circles. $831 Billion borrowed from China was the propellant to fuel the recovery of the 2008 self-inflicted housing bubble collapse that vaporized nearly $8 Trillion in wealth. This failed Keynesian Hail Mary was supposed to put millions of Americans back to work at “Shovel Ready” jobs rebuilding the country’s crumbling infrastructure. Failure to pass would cause the earth’s rotation to cease, the sun to go dark, and life as we knew it would end. Total cost including interest over 10 years $1.2 Trillion. Five years later after squandering hundreds of millions on “Junk Science” enterprises like Solyndra $535 Million unvetted, now bankrupt, and a myriad of environmental pet projects like Florida’s “TurtleTunnels” ($3.4 Million) the nation’s infrastructure, bridges and overpasses are still being propped up by massive “Lincoln Logs” and bales of rusty chicken wire while D.O.T. night crews find it more efficient to move the potholes than to fill them.
Rhode Island’s share of Barack Obama’s “Porkulus” package was North of $1 Billion. $95 Million, less than 10 percent found its way to infrastructure projects, the bulk of those resources to road resurfacing. The Six-Ten Connector was deteriorating 5 years ago, and not a single buffalo nickel of the Stimulus was invested in its rehab. Today, the Six-Ten Connector stands (don’t look up) as a monument to Smith Hill’s uncommon capacity to squander financial opportunity. GoLocalProv outlines in detail the dispersal of Rhode Island’s $1 Billion share.
RhodeWorks now resurrected for a third time is akin to Barack Obama’s 09 Stimulus program. Governor Raimondo’s political resume’ is screaming out for an earth moving win, and what could be more earth moving than to singlehandedly rescue Rhode Island’s infrastructure from certain doom on the electorate’s dime for which Labor will be eternally grateful. Passage of RhodeWorks, will pave her toll road to a Washington Post. Fair to say a second term to warm the Governor’s seat doesn’t even enter into her political equation. Given the current speed of government the Six-Ten connector will still be a work in progress long after Gina Raimondo has made her escape to Washington. For Rhode Island Labor interests the unofficial Fourth Branch of Government, this is a 10 plus year stimulus program rife with cost overruns, and deadline extensions. Upon passage Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio’s status will be elevated to that of “Ponos” Greek God of labor.
It comes as no surprise RhodeWorks (Porkulus Lite) is being Fast Tracked thru the House. By House Speaker Nick Mattiello’ reckoning RhodeWorks 3.0 has all but passed, upcoming election casualties have been calculated, House losses if any are acceptable. Outside of a floor vote in the House everything else is just a formality. The ink on the House Bill will still be wet when the Senate and Governor signs off with their blessing. If leadership on the Hill has demonstrated nothing else, it is not the electorate they fear, only the loss of their own power.
The latest version of RhodeWorks is simply “Lipstick on a Pig”. The new and improved package calls for reduced borrowing, $300 Million instead of $550 Million, interest debt clocks in near $500 Million bringing the total package to $800 Million. To sweeten the deal, a provision prohibiting the tolling of cars is the carrot baked into the legislation to insulate the electorate’s fears. Between the Hawks and Lemmings, the Hawks know this provision can be amended or repealed when toll revenues don’t meet expectations, and there is a laundry list of additional vehicle classes that can be tolled before cars become a target. Fact is the General Assembly can fully honor the “No Tolls” on Cars provision by reaching into the other pocket of the taxpayer and invoking new fees and taxes.
Decades of government and bureaucratic neglect are responsible for bridges propped up by corroding rebar, rotting timbers falling concrete and axel busting potholes we venture over every day. The trucking industry and their members who already pay millions in fuel taxes and registration fees because of their additional impact on infrastructure have been targeted to pay for Smith Hills past and current sins. All efforts by the Trucking industry and Republican offering of a Pay as You Go plan have been summarily rejected by design, neither proposal reckon with leadership’s short term agenda. Passage of RhodeWorks, solidifies Raimondo’s status as a rising star in the National Democratic party, the General Assembly will be relieved of any financial discipline with respect to infrastructure for the next decade and Rhode Island Labor interest and contractors will not only enjoy security and the spoils of profit for the next decade plus, their gratitude will be extended locally and nationally in propelling Gina Raimondo to National Office.