— Infrastructure —

January 16, 2013

Legislation Under the Radar - Mo' Money for the General Fund

Justin Katz

I'm going through all legislation as it's introduced to the Rhode Island General Assembly, and the Center for Freedom & Prosperity will be putting out a real-time Freedom Index — essentially a watch list — in a couple of weeks. That'll have the collection of good and bad within the think tank's scope.

Card check? Check. Master lever? Yup. Mail ballots for lazy voters? Uh-huh. General Assembly term limits? Absolutely.

But in keeping with yesterday's post about overly discreet legislation concerning Bryant's taxes, I'm not able to resist mention of bills that I find intriguing, including those that are of interest because of the way they're presented.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

September 28, 2012

Tiverton Toll Meeting Shows Rhode Islanders Have to Stop Fighting Fire with Paper

Justin Katz

Last night, I attended the first organizational meeting for the Tiverton branch of Sakonnet Toll Oppostion Platform (STOP), a cross-community effort to stop the state of Rhode Island from placing a toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge.  If I was skeptical about the ability of residents to prevent the tolls before, I'm pretty well convinced that the people of the East Bay will not be able to stop them, now.

The audience consisted of approximately fifty residents, from a broad variety of local groups and interests — many most often seen in heated attacks against each other over the usual slate of issues that face the town.  Even though the only state-level official in the room was Sen. Walter Felag (D, Bristol, Tiverton, Warren), the opportunity should be there, in other words, for some effective leaders to draw on the strengths of the different groups to affect state-level lawmakers.


Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

August 10, 2012

Legislative Votes For and Against Tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge

Justin Katz

Rhode Islanders, mainly from the East Bay, have organized a protest at Clements Market in Portsmouth, this afternoon, against tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge. The hope is that the language that the General Assembly passed into law, this session, as Article 20 of the budget bill (7323Aaa) can be reversed.

That article and the budget to which it was attached were on the agendas of the RI House and Senate on June 7 and June 11, respectively. (The links are to the Ocean State Current's liveblogs, so readers can see who said what during debate.) In the Senate, Article 20 came up for a vote when Sen. Louis DiPalma (D, Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton) proposed an amendment to remove it from the bill.

In the House, several amendments were raised and voted down to modify the article to make it less burdensome on local residents. The following table shows how the votes went in both chambers. The House voted on the article in three parts: Section 4, transferring the bridge's title to the RI Turnpike and Bridge Authority and authorizing tolls; parts of Section 3, authorizing the authority to maintain the bridge and set up tolls; and the rest of the article.

The votes below reflect the first vote, which is most explicit about tolls, but the article is written such that tolls would have been likely if any part of it passed. However, the only differences for the other two votes were that Baldelli-Hunt voted in favor of the language of Section 3, and Messier voted against the rest of the article.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

August 6, 2012

State Agrees They Can't Borrow Forever

Patrick Laverty

Every two years, I've had this thought that the referenda on the ballot needs an "other side." At least someone to explain what it means to the voters from the other point of view. Every time there's a question about roads or bridges or buildings at URI or open space, every one of those questions has some group out there advocating for it. They have their own yard signs with a "YES on #2" or whatever. And it seems that every referendum passes overwhelmingly. Of course, why wouldn't we want new roads or a shiny new classroom at URI or public space? Of course we want all that, it's all free right? Plus, we're told that the federal government is going to at least match the money, so we're getting all these things for half price.

Most voters have no idea that when they vote for these referenda, they're voting themselves a tax increase. Each year the taxes go up and we hear people screaming about "those crooks" on Smith Hill and in Washington, yet they have no idea they partially did it to themselves by voting in favor of these spending measures.

Today in the Providence Journal is an article that Rhode Island will no longer borrow to spend on infrastructure.

For the first time in memory, the state this year will not ask voters’ permission to borrow tens of millions of dollars for the state’s transportation system — and run up borrowing costs.
The change will save millions in interest
So how about that "savings" when we get matching money from the federal government? Here's one example in the article:
In 2010, the voters approved the borrowing of $84.7 million — but with interest added, the cost was $147.7 million.
That amounts to paying an extra 57% in interest. There goes the "savings," not to mention that even federal money still comes from our pockets anyway. It's not like federal money is free money either.

How much is this borrowing cost us?

The debt-service cost to the DOT has risen to $50 million a year. Michael P. Lewis, the state director of transportation, said that if the borrowing had continued, the annual debt-service expense would have risen to $70 million in a decade.
That's $50M a year that we're paying because we basically put it all on a credit card instead of paying cash. If we don't have the money to pay for the infrastructure, why are we building it? If you need these things built, then pay for them now. That's really what taxation should be for, the infrastructure that everyone uses. Another example of this issue is actually under way right now. Shortly after Dan McGowan reported that Providence will still finish the year with a $19M shortfall, the city has decided to borrow another $40M to repair the roads. That's like getting a new iPhone when you don't have enough money to cover the mortgage.

Lastly, not to toot our own horn...well, ok yeah, this is tooting our own horn, here at Anchor Rising we've been saying the same thing for years. At least, Justin and Marc are on this record as being against borrowing for roads and bridges. (Friends who would listen to my rants can attest that I was also on board with this philosophy as well.) Justin even posted in his pre-Anchor Rising format as far back as 2004 and Marc did as well, in this more familiar look and feel. So this begs the question, will Rhode Island wait another eight years or more to finally realize that we are right about issues like debt, pensions and insider deals?

Governor Chafee, DOT make right call - NO Transportation Bond Ballot Item in 2012

Marc Comtois

It's about time, via the ProJo:

For the first time in memory, the state won't be asking voters' permission this year to borrow tens of millions of dollars for the state's transportation system - and running up borrowing costs each time.

The change will save many millions in interest, with the savings to increase until the Department of Transportation's debt service costs disappear once the bonds issued in the past are paid off, officials said.

It's unclear from this version of the ProJo story whether the state is still going to provide the requisite 20% of desired transportation funds that are required for the federal gov't to provide the balance (80%).

July 28, 2012

Against Borrowing in Providence or Anywhere

Justin Katz

In his Saturday column, Ted Nesi makes a point that I'd been thinking about as the week came to a close, related to a proposed $40 million infrastructure bond in Providence:

Governments should borrow to fund long-term infrastructure projects that have a higher rate of return than the interest on the bonds, but [in Providence's past] bond money was used to pay a principal’s salary and develop a restaurant. Buddy Cianci, apparently confusing borrowed money with free money, told Stycos: “This way, we can make the improvements and the tax rate doesn’t go up.” Cianci left off the crucial word “now” — because the tax rate certainly will go up eventually if the projects aren’t ones that will boost the city economy and help offset the interest costs. Taveras would do well to burnish his reformer credentials further by finding a new, transparent way to allocate bond money if voters approve the proposal in November.

In theory, Ted's argument definitely applies. One clarification I would make, first, is that one can't forget the actual cost of the work. The "higher rate of return," as Ted puts it, can offset the interest, but one suspects that new streets and sidewalks will require replacement well before their incremental benefit has compensated for the whole $40 million plus interest.

That said, suppose an accurate projection finds that improved pavement would increase city revenue — through increased commerce, property values, and so on — by three percent. In such a case, even if the interest paid on the bonds were exactly the same, the city might as well borrow the money rather than save it up over the same period of time and then do the work. Residents and visitors would gain the benefit of tomorrow's new sidewalks, today.

There are good reasons to resist that argument, both in practical and in theoretical terms.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

(Note: edited at 7:48 a.m., 7/30/2012, to clarify that the bond is for roads and sidewalks.)

July 17, 2012

A Decade of Moving Next Door

Justin Katz

I've been following taxpayer migration data for years, but in a haphazard way. A new study that I've coauthored for the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity finally gave me the opportunity to review all fifteen years of available data from the IRS.

The picture — from the 2003 beginning of what can only be described as an exodus — is frightening. After accounting for the tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders who moved to other states and other taxpayers who moved in the opposite direction, Rhode Island lost 24,455 households, with $1.2 billion of annual income (not inflation adjusted). More conspicuously, a net 3,406 taxpayers moved right across the border, to abutting counties in Massachusetts and Connecticut, taking with them $254.5 million in annual adjusted gross income (AGI).

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

December 10, 2011

Watch Out, Trash Haulers And Central Landfill! Regulation Enforcement Straight Ahead!

Monique Chartier

Johnston's Mayor Polisena has gone ballistic over the serious odor which now regularly emanates from the state landfill. (It was noticeable even this morning on Route 95 - yes, 95 - just south of Exit 14 in a moving vehicle with all windows rolled up.) And who can blame him.

Sure, he's gonna sue. But lawsuits can drag on and don't usually produce an immediate solution. In the meantime, the stench of hydrogen sulfide and other gases would not be abated, property values would continue to drop and the town's tax base would be eroded.

So he's deploying a truly fearsome weapon.

Citing an intolerable invasion of “noxious” state landfill odors that have tormented residents for months, Mayor Joseph M. Polisena announced Thursday that his administration will use every tool it can to prod the landfill agency toward a remedy, from a lawsuit to potentially disruptive police inspections of inbound trash trucks. ...

Polisena also said he had ordered the Police and Fire departments to conduct a comprehensive review of all town ordinances and regulations governing landfill operations and power generation there.

“It is our intent to fairly, and I repeat fairly, but aggressively, enforce any and all ordinances and regulations that are necessary to protect the health and welfare of our great town,” he said.

Later, Polisena made it clear that his administration’s response could involve police inspections of trucks as they leave the landfill ...

Run for the hills! A municipality in one of the most regulation-heavy states is going to cut loose with all the regs in its arsenal!

By the way, the ProJo article cites the start date as well as what appears to be the cause of the odor.

Polisena and Conley said Broadrock [Renewables - the company charged with keeping gas at the landfill under control] staff removed a flaring mechanism in May, and data collected by the landfill shows that greater volumes of gases flowed into the atmosphere after that.

Yup, May - that was when I started noticing the gross odor on Route 295. (Again, even in a moving vehicle with windows closed, it was terrible. Can't imagine trying to live, stationary, in that plume.)

Um, people, is it too obvious to suggest that we crank up the flaring mechanism again?

August 28, 2011

And Here's the Storm

Justin Katz

So here we are, still hours away from the brunt of the storm, and we've already lost power. National Grid's line is busy. Good thing I have a print subscription to the Proto... and a fully charged smart phone to keep me connected.

If only I had a smart, chargeable fridge.

April 14, 2010

A Sign That Our Government Has Become Distracted

Justin Katz

Take every pothole that you hit and bridge that you tremble to cross as a reminder of how misplaced the priorities of the state and federal governments have become:

In the supplemental budget Governor Carcieri sent to the legislature, he proposed reducing the DOT budget by $74.3 million. The House Finance Committee recommended cutting slightly more than $5 million more, leaving the DOT with $409.4 million. The House is scheduled to vote on the supplemental budget this week. ...

The state puts no more money into its bridge and highway programs than the 20 percent required to match federal aid for projects, and it borrows that matching money. Shawver said the state has known its highway aid would be held up for months. Congress hasn't approved a replacement for the country's main highway legislation, making funding unpredictable, he said.

Road repairs aren't as politically valuable as big giveaways, in part because everybody already expects them, leaving no advantage to being the politician who made them happen. Then, when they're clearly deficient, the blame is diffuse, both in its origin among the people and in its targets.

March 30, 2010

RISC's Open Eye Catches More Economy-Killing Taxes

Justin Katz

The Rhode Island Statewide Coalition has been making a concerted effort to peruse all of the legislation making its way through the General Assembly and recently unearthed this gem from Senator Charles Levesque (D., Bristol, Portsmouth), creating a Highway Maintenance and Public Transit Trust Fund, financed as follows:

... There is imposed a surcharge of forty dollars ($40.00) per passenger car and light truck to be paid by each car and light truck owner in order to register that owner’s vehicle and receive license plates. ...

... There is imposed on each company that is engaged in the refining or distribution, or both, of petroleum products and that distributes such products in this state a tax at the rate of three percent (3%) of its gross receipts derived from the first sale of petroleum products within this state ...

... There is an imposed on each company that imports or causes to be imported, other than by a company subject to and having paid the tax on those imported petroleum products that have generated gross receipts taxable under subdivision (b)(2) of this section, petroleum products for use or consumption by it within the state a tax at the rate of three percent (3%) of the consideration given or contracted to be given for such petroleum products if the consideration given or contracted to be given for such deliveries made during a quarterly period exceeds three thousand dollars ($3,000)

There really is no surprise in the fact that Rhode Island is wallowing at the bottom of the nation's economy. As I've said many times, public infrastructure is a legitimate function of government, and it ought to be the first thing funded by taxes that we already pay.

March 28, 2010

Ray "Fastlane" LaHood Wants to Build Up the Slow Lane

Monique Chartier

On his ironically titled blog, US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced

... a sea change. People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.

We are integrating the needs of bicyclists in federally-funded road projects. We are discouraging transportation investments that negatively affect cyclists and pedestrians. And we are encouraging investments that go beyond the minimum requirements and provide facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.

To set this approach in motion, we have formulated key recommendations for state DOTs and communities:

•Treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.

•Ensure convenient access for people of all ages and abilities.

•Go beyond minimum design standards.

•Collect data on walking and biking trips.

•Set a mode share target for walking and bicycling.

•Protect sidewalks and shared-use paths the same way roadways are protected (for example, snow removal)

•Improve nonmotorized facilities during maintenance projects.

The logistical difficulties posed by this edict have only nightmare solutions: either narrow existing roads and exacerbate some already serious congestion or widen roads by taking hundreds of thousands (millions?) of acres of land by eminent domain.

The economy and the unemployment rate continue to not dazzle. Federal, state and local governments are looking at budgetary red ink as far as the eye can see. Pending several lawsuits (cross your fingers and toes), the federal government has effectively seized control of the nation's healthcare system, to the extreme concern of a sizeable chunk of voters. And the Transportation Secretary pipes up with a plan to put our bike paths on steroids?? Please tell me this is a wag the pedal attempt to change the conversation from the first three items and not a serious policy proposal.

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.

February 18, 2010

Rhody Highway Dollars: Little (Too Much?) Bang for the Buck

Monique Chartier

As a function of compiling a snapshot of the condition of the state so as to enlighten the House Senior Deputy Majority Leader, I went looking for an update on the highway situation. This analysis popped up, a state ranking by the Reason Foundation of highway conditions, efficiency and cost-effectiveness. They looked at state highway systems

in 11 categories, including congestion, pavement condition, fatalities, deficient bridges and total spending.

You will be shocked! shocked! (... okay, you won't but apparently the Senior Deputy Majority Leader will be) to learn that Rhode Island ranks 49th out of fiftieth, getting special mention in the text of the analysis.

Taxpayers in New York, Hawaii, New Jersey, California, Rhode Island and Alaska have the worst-performing highway systems in the nation.

The Senior Deputy Majority Leader purports to believe that Rhode Island's highways are under-funded. Possibly, as with our school systems, this is not so much a matter of under-funding as a lack of will on the part of our elected officials to set standards so as to obtain a reasonable return on the expenditure of our tax dollars.

March 20, 2009

Stimulating Ignorance of the Problem

Justin Katz

So Rhode Island — indeed, Tiverton — may be providing the first instance of the federal stimulus at work:

It will surely be the first in Rhode Island and there's a chance that a Main Road, Tiverton, rebuilding job could be the first federal stimulus job in the nation.

"We've already had some inquiries from national media," said Frank Corrao, chief of construction for the state Department of Transportation. "We're not sure but we hear that this one could be the first."

In whatever coverage there may be of this milestone, in whatever political grandstanding, will anybody ask the critical questions: Why did we allow this road to reach this point, why did it require once-a-century federal largess to fix it, and what can we do to ensure that our transportation infrastructure doesn't continue to deteriorate to this state?

I'll guess "no." From the print edition of the story:

Mr. Corrao said that while this has been a "priority" job for some time, it was backlogged with many others due to lack of funds. It is a job that needs doing, he said, "but the money wasn't there."

Then where was it?

March 15, 2009

Desirable Transportation and the Road There

Justin Katz

I'll admit that I'm generally in agreement with benjones on transportation:

In Rhode Island, we'll never be able to retool our local enonomy to produce the vehicles people are driving today, but we could use our small size and largely non-existent manufacturing industry to our advantage.

We can design a transportation supply chain from scratch that gives us choices that make sense for our lives, and removes us from the mythology that we can have economic prosperity by using up a finite resource.

A thorough reworking of public transportation wouldn't affect my daily commute (except to the extent that it reduces traffic), given the fact that my job requires me to have a workshop's worth of tools at ready access on a mobile basis, but given the nature of my second job (or primary hobby) at Anchor Rising, I'm certainly in a position to appreciate a change in opportunities. No matter the job to which I'm commuting, I would love access to public transportation, even if it were to add to my actual commute time. With a netbook mini-laptop and high-speed, mobile-based Internet access, it would hardly be like "commuting" at all; I'd gain back most of the hour and a half that I spend controlling my vehicle each day for more productive and enjoyable tasks.

The problem, often the case with initiatives of a leftish bent, is that the issue becomes a vehicle for a broader agenda. It's not just an efficient public transportation system on which we're to focus, but an efficient public transportation system that runs on "environmentally friendly" energy sources and supplies jobs to union workers. The vision expands effortlessly from a rail system to a new paradigm that has commuters driving "cars like go carts." And the investment always requires additional government revenue, not a restructuring of government expenditures.

The question — and this could transform very quickly into a turgid discussion of government philosophy — is whether progressives could back public transportation as a principle that might not advance their other objectives, having enough faith in the rightness of their views that they think establishing principles will lead people down the path that they prefer. For example, even if it initially runs on that evil ol' oil, a public transportation system that extricates Rhode Islanders from their cars on a daily basis might save enough general wealth to make the clean-energy premium more palatable. And the increased ease might attract businesses and broaden opportunities, making residents more amenable to the employment higher-cost public-sector labor.

All along, investing in infrastructure has been one of the three pillars of my prescription for Rhode Island's economy. For the state to advance, however, we'll have to be careful not to bring too many of our bad habits and erroneous impulses along with us to the project.

February 5, 2009

A Hidden Tax in the Middle of the Road

Justin Katz

Rhode Islanders are beginning to catch on, I think, to the game whereby the state government spends our tax dollars on labor costs, entitlements, and other non-essential or excessive line items and then returns to the taxpayers requesting the passage of bonds for infrastructural basics, like roads. As has come up on Anchor Rising, before, the scheme contains a hidden tax, as well:

Gaping potholes have opened up in town and are snagging cars left and right.

All on Feb. 2, police received reports of eight incidents where drivers struck a pot hole and seriously damaged their vehicles — and many more strikes went unreported. All of these incidents occurred on state roads, and those with damage to a vehicle resulting may be able to recoup up to $300 from the state. ...

A Portsmouth man said he was at the Cumberland Farms on East Main Road, between Pine Tree Road and Schoolhouse Lane, when he noticed four drivers in the parking lot with "blown out tires." Twenty minutes later, he got a call from his daughter who needed help changing a tire that was popped by the pothole near Pine Tree Road.

When he arrived to help his daughter, he said "another six cars were changing their tires at that time."

"This is outrageous," the man wrote in the report he filed with police. "Because it is a state road, police cannot do anything. Shame on the R.I.D.O.T."

Police checked out the pothole on East Main Road near Pine Tree Road and measured it at one foot wide.

Department of Transportation Public Affairs Officer Dana Nolfe said on Tuesday that DOT's dispatch received six calls that day about potholes on state roads in Portsmouth. Now that DOT is aware of them, she said, workers will go out and patch the holes as soon as the weather permits.

Yes, in the extreme, direct circumstances, the motorist can recoup some or all of the repair expense, but note the declining number: One eyewitness observed a total of thirteen cars, while police received reports of eight, and the DOT heard from four people (who weren't necessarily among those experiencing damage).

One also must remember that the $300 doesn't cover the lost time, productivity, and peace of mind on the day of the incident or of the repair. More broadly, it doesn't cover the gradual accelerated wear on the vehicles of everybody who drives over the miles of rough roads every day nor the time and aggravation of those who face the roads' effects on traffic. The right-hand southbound lane of West Main in Portsmouth is a painful ride — just about undrivable in a work van — so drivers tend to stay in the left, congesting flow.

To avoid such outcomes is why we pay taxes in the first place.

December 5, 2008

Rhode Island to Hard-Working Taxpayers: You're Not Wanted

Justin Katz

So I took a 14% reduction in my hourly pay rate this week. My other option was to quit and look for another job (without the benefit of a few months of unemployment insurance). Desperate times are here.

Meanwhile, the Sakonnet Times did run Richard Joslin's diatribe against the Tiverton taxpayers group with which I'm involved. The Providence Journal has also given Tom Sgouros's "Quit yer moanin'" rhetorical dreidle a bigger spin through the population, with Opinion Page Editor Bob Whitcomb offering Sgouros kudos for his "fact-filled and very thoughtful commentaries" (in general).

Then comes the broad list of possible new tax-the-people solutions for avoiding the necessity of paying for Rhode Island's transportation infrastructure out of the revenue pool that really ought to supply it. I'll tell you right now that just about any one of these options — except the higher gasoline tax, which won't affect me, except indirectly via higher costs passed on to customers — may be the final straw for my family.

It's possible they'll hit me with to-and-fro tolls just to get to work each day, and noises are that we're not talking the 35¢ that has been unchanged on New Jersey's Garden State Parkway for as long as I can remember. My wife could conceivably encounter four tolls, as she drops off the children at her mother's house three miles away and then heads to work in a part of Rhode Island more readily accessible via 195. Families in Portsmouth and Middletown could end up hitting six tolls on an evening trip to Providence. And then there are the other taxes and per-mile fees, no matter where one drives.

Of the half-dozen or so jobs that Monster.com emails to me each day that somewhat match my criteria (although rarely sufficiently), not a single one has been in Rhode Island for quite some time. And if I were to find another job in the state, chances are slim that I wouldn't have to deduct heavy transportation costs from my earnings. The question, therefore, is this: Do the state's leaders really intend to further weigh the "get out of here" side of the decision scale for the slice of the population that has been streaming out of the state in the thousands every year?

November 15, 2008

The Big Idea That Nobody's Having

Justin Katz

Hey, Rhode Islanders: That deferred tax increase known as "transportation bonds" (and claiming all those wonderful federal tax dollars) to which you just assented? Not enough:

A special state panel yesterday discussed several ideas to raise money to fix the state's roads and bridges, from tolls on Route 95 and the Sakonnet River bridge to increases in the gas tax and higher traffic fines.

But none of the suggestions would come close to raising the $300 million a year the state Department of Transportation says it needs to catch up from years of neglect.

On a separate front, Jerome F. Williams, the governor's director of administration, offered the administration's first plan for covering the budget deficit that threatens to force major cutbacks in bus service or even a shutdown of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority. ...

During the first year, the plan would impose a new wholesale tax on fuel for motor vehicles, raising $43 million per year. It would also increase vehicle registration fees by $10 per year,raising $22.9 million, and increase the penalties for traffic violations by 20 percent, raising $1.8 million per year. The difference would come from smaller increases in other fees. ...

In later years, Williams would add toll boothson Route 95 near the Connecticut border , raising another $40 million.

While reading the article, I saw a brief glimmer of hope that officials at least had brought some of the correct answers into the conversation — even if only to dismiss them:

Williams' plan avoids a number of politically difficult possibilities which the panel has talked about ....

But then I read on:

... such as imposing tolls on the planned new Sakonnet River Bridge and on the Mt. Hope Bridge, and raising the state sales tax.

Yes, the fatal thinking continues, including such bad old habits as setting government goals to merely "try and get through this year" and promising that tax increases would only be "for a short period of time."

How about this: Given the central importance of infrastructure and public transportation and the utter economic insanity of increasing Rhode Island's taxes and fees, let's redirect funds that are currently allocated for purposes that may help a few but are proving to harm us all over the long run. (I refer, of course, to the state's welfare and union sieves.) Hey, we can even promise that the cuts will only be "for a short period of time" — namely, until the state can actually afford to pay for the programs and benefits.