February 19, 2010

A Negative Approach to Governance

Justin Katz

And around and around not-my-town goes:

Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth), whose district encompasses neighborhoods on both sides of the Sakonnet River Bridge, has introduced legislation that will prohibit tolls from being charged on the bridge. ...

Instead, Rep. Edwards proposes placing a toll on Interstate Hwy 95 (I-95) in Westerly and in Pawtucket as an alternative revenue source.

As a political matter, it's an easy call to reject state-level policies that will affect one's subregion negatively. And sure, perhaps there are marginal justifications for putting a toll in one place rather than another. However, this is just gamesmanship. If Rep. Edwards wishes to submit legislation that will solve the acute problem of a toll proposal while addressing the underlying difficulty, he should propose that the General Assembly allocate money from its general revenue to the basic infrastructure matters to which it ought to be going before anything else.

Of course, that would require the risk that people in his own district might dislike the decreased revenue for the ancillary government expenditures that would have to be cut, such as nanny state programs, inside deals, and union giveaways.

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"Instead, Rep. Edwards proposes placing a toll on Interstate Hwy 95 (I-95) in Westerly and in Pawtucket as an alternative revenue source."

Perhaps Rep. Edwards is unaware that placing tolls on interstate highways is prohibited by federal law, unless Congress gives explicit approval. The law is pretty plain about things which were federal funded not having additional tolls on them.

Tolls are generally used by private and quasi-public agencies to finance construction and/or maintenance. All of the existing tolls in the federal system were grandfathered into the system.

I think if there were an "easy" way for the General Assembly to squeeze more cash out of us, they would have certainly done it by now! How about just cutting some expenses, huh?

PS There was also a plan to put one at the East Providence / Seekonk border on 195. Same problem. Plus, I'm sure he isn't anticipating that people might actually use side roads instead!

Posted by: Will at February 19, 2010 5:05 PM

What about taxing sales of yachts and pleasure boats in Rhode Island?

Bought a car in 2009. Paid a lot of tax money. Could have, If I had the money and the inclination, purchased a yacht for 10 times the value and paid no state sales taxes.


Posted by: OldTimeLefty at February 19, 2010 9:00 PM

OTL - worth talking about, but stay on topic. We don't need more taxes in general; we need less government at a cost that is fairer to ordinary people.

Can't resist - do you have a serious study showing the impact on the marine industry - marinas, chandleries and overhaul yards as well as builders - of reimposing such a tax? By serious study, I mean it can't have been commissioned by the GA or a similar tax cabal. You wouldn't find a receptive audience in Bristol and Warren, whose residents were greatly harmed by the since-repealed 10% luxury tax of late last century. People who are affected by these decisions have alternatives - deferral and/or buying elsewhere. A big problem with any proposal like this is that it assumes behavior doesn't change with a change in the law - static budgeting.

Posted by: chuckR at February 20, 2010 10:04 AM

Tolls can be bad for business. Can't tell you how many people stay in on the weekend in Massachusetts because they don't want to get hit with 3 expensive tolls taking the Pike to downtown Boston. For college students in particular, tolls can be a huge deterrent. Needless to say, that is the last thing we need in our state right now.

Posted by: Dan at February 20, 2010 10:36 AM

No tolls. Just cut spending. No more giving money to the govt to waste.

Posted by: kathy at February 22, 2010 8:52 PM
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