Photo Credit AsphaltandRubber.com
RhodeWorks R.I. Incubator for White House Interstate Tolling Agenda
There’s always a trail of Breadcrumbs, and the trail from RhodeWorks leads straight back to the White House … Political and economic conditions on the ground make Rhode Island the perfect incubator to advance a White House Interstate Tolling agenda. For decades this politically deep blue state, largely controlled by organized labor, has the worst infrastructure in the lower 48, no political will, financial discipline or vision to prioritize its infrastructure needs at the risk of jeopardizing its own Democratic powerbase. Every Democratic/Progressive experiment requires a “Big Government” operative to control information, outcome and mitigate damage control. Governor Gina Raimondo’s (D) 5 year track record, and brute force delivery of the RhodeWorks legislation clearly shows she has the stuff to marshal Federal resources with stealth and S.O.P. lack of transparency to insure RhodeWorks isn’t struck down in Federal court and remains the model to replicate interstate tolling nationwide. For organized labor this is a ten year plus Stimulus package rife with cost overruns and corruption.
To be clear, RhodeWorks is not a Federal Program but embodies a number of controversial elements of the Obama Administration’s Six Year $478 Billion national infrastructure rebuild known as the Grow America Act 2.0 The most egregious component of the White House plan is to lift the national ban on interstate tolls. Permitting the states to toll vehicles of any class type while continuing to collect Federal and State Fuel Taxes is not only Double Taxation, those states whose coffers ring hollow for cash could simply ramp up tolling rates with a few mouse clicks, or stage additional tolling gantries in lieu of exercising any fiscal discipline. An equally destructive concept is to permit individual state to redirect revenue collected thru tolling for “Non-Infrastructure” use. For the state of Rhode Island this is akin to administering a form of Fiscal Narcan to enable state government’s spending addiction Gina Raimondo and the R.I. General Assembly have exercised some questionable Federal statutory gymnastics in crafting the latest iteration of RhodeWorks. This legislation redefines the legal definition of the Interstate Highway where tolling is federally banned by excluding bridges and overpasses for purpose of tolling and collecting revenue for the state. Left unchallenged the tolling of any span that connects any segment of the interstate highway whether 2 feet or 2000 sets a dangerous national precedent. The provision to toll 18 Wheelers (Class 8) exclusively in the RhodeWorks legislation is in fact a Red Herring, and by design crafted to ultimately be struck down in Federal Court, but not before the American Truckers Association (ATA) and other national transportation interests have launched a protracted Federal suit challenging RhodeWorks. The 14 Tolling Gantries to be erected at the cost of $43 Million not be in place until 2018. When Federal court strikes down the Class 8 exclusion and if RhodeWorks isn’t struck down in its entirety, Smith Hill Lawmakers will be forced to re-write the tolling provision to include all vehicles. Had all vehicles been included in the original tolling provision this state sanctioned money grab would have been DOA. It’s fair to say Washington’s influence weighed heavily in the engineering of RhodeWorks, and the legislative land speed record set in ramming it thru. If this legislation survives all legal challenges, the negative economic effect will be a force multiplier as more states hungry for cash erect their own monuments to Grow America 2.0 … Tolling Gantries.
Decades of government neglect are responsible for the decay of Rhode Island’s infrastructure. Bridges and overpasses propped up by massive stacks of Lincoln logs, corroding rebar and falling concrete held back by bales of rusty chicken wire are commonplace landmarks. Multiple proposals offered by the Trucking industry, and the handful of Republicans in the General Assembly, were all rejected without leadership consideration, not because they weren’t viable, these proposals didn’t serve the Obama Administration’s Agenda larger agenda to bypass Congress and launch Grow America 2.0 at the state level. For now until Governor Raimondo is called to run for National office or summoned to Washington for her dream post, Raimondo’s mission is insure RhodeWorks remains law to advance the Obama Administrations Interstate Tolling Agenda.