Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Gina Raimondo’s Diary

Selected excerpts from Gina Raimondo’s future diary follow.

2015, December 29 – What a wonderful year! I became governor of Rhode Island, and I'm leading a great campaign called RhodeWorks! We'll create bicycle paths, fix our bridges, and bolster our finances without raising taxes! All we have to do is toll big trucks! It's a brilliant idea!

2016, December 20 – What a good year! I'll be the first to admit truck tolls did not yield as much cash as expected. Some unsportsmanlike truckers are driving around Rhode Island! Can you imagine? I say good riddance! And for some reason, there were fewer trucks delivering within the state. Obviously our truck tolls weren’t high enough, so we have raised them. Meanwhile we’ve added 500 miles of new bicycle paths!

2017, December 1 – What a swell year! Of course, no one is more upset than I am that a can of Coke in Providence costs $20! That's why I’ve proposed a bill that would fine truckers for raising rates just to be mean! But fewer trucks make less traffic on Rhode Island bridges! And I promise those will be fixed as soon as we finish widening the bicycle paths. Who knew they would be so popular? With that in mind, on to 2018 and my campaign for re-election!

2018, November 5 – OK, I lost. But do they have to use words like “gargantuan” to describe the margin? It was those viral videos of people wheeling their furniture out of state on the bicycle paths. And all that talk of unemployment! Irv Ratcliff’s Turnip Farm is hiring! So is Rhode Island’s own Ersatz Cola Company! Turnip-based soft drinks will be big as soon as we can get beyond that “We Have the Ladle, You Bring the Glass” distribution model. Congratulations to Gov. Muculent, of course. Let’s see if he can fix those bridges now that Congress and the new Administration have ended the federal highway program. They call it devolution. He’ll have to raise tolls. What else can he do?

2021, November 1 – The recall election is tomorrow. Gov. Muculent should have fixed those bridges. But no one expected so many to collapse so soon, and there’s no federal money to rebuild them. It doesn’t really matter. Most everything in and out of Rhode Island these days is by barge. Gov. Muculent tried to impose a docking tax, but who knew you could catapult freight from barge to shore? If it worked in the other direction, nothing would ever dock here. I understand Boston is doing barge business, too. Interstate truck traffic really dropped after highway maintenance stopped. By the way, did you know that autonomous trucks can't tell a pothole from a hole in the ground?     

2030, July 4 – Just between us, sometimes I miss the federal government. You could always blame stuff on them. On the other hand, I do enjoy being Queen of Rhode Island. The buck would stop here if we still had bucks. But barter is cool. It just takes some getting used to. It sure wasn’t easy getting to be Rhode Island’s first Queen, believe me. But everyone’s happier without the constant stress of democracy — all that personal responsibility and such. Life is simpler now; the oxcarts fit nicely on those old bicycle paths, though they’re not great at getting supplies to the front. Rhode Island is smaller since the Massachusetts Militia swept down from Fall River and took Newport. But we still have to defend ourselves from that crazy Duke of New London who broke his county off from the Connecticut Commune last year. His troops are always trying to sneak across the Pawcatuck River, and it’s hard to keep our guys supplied with the oxcarts. Hate to say it, but sometimes I wish I had a few great big trucks.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Any truck-only toll in Rhode Island would be devastating

If Rhode Island officials think they can simply wave a magic wand and toll trucks to pay for everyone else’s transportation needs, they are severely underestimating the fight they’re going to have on their hands.

Truckers have already demonstrated their outrage over Gov. Gina Raimondo’s proposed truck-only “user fee” to pay for $1.1 billion in transportation upgrades. And once other people get wind of how devastating these tolls will be, they will be outraged, too.

Have you heard the way the governor talks about trucks? According to her, trucks are cash cows that can simply dig deeper to supply the rest of the state with cash for transportation needs, as if it’s no big deal. When asked by local media if she would consider raising the gas tax instead, she said no, that tolls on trucks were a “reasonable, fair, sustainable” way of moving forward.

We hate to break it to the governor – actually, we are OK breaking this to her – but tolls on trucks would have the opposite effect.

I was discussing this with Ryan Bowley of OOIDA’s Washington, D.C., office, and he sums this up rather well.

“This isn’t a tax or a toll on trucking. This isn’t a tax or a toll on freight. This is a tax and a toll on each and every good shipped into the state of Rhode Island by truck,” he said. “According to the Federal Highway Administration’s latest numbers from 2012, there was more than $17 billion worth of freight hauled to Rhode Island from other states.”

Those numbers say a lot, don’t they? They certainly speak volumes about the value of trucks and trucking to a small, coastal port state.

If the roads are so bad, why hasn’t Rhode Island asked the federal government for help through the discretionary grant program known as TIGER? Again, the numbers don’t lie. Rhode Island has only applied for one or two highway-related grants through the federal TIGER program since 2012, yet they love to play off of the stats that show their roads and bridges rank 50th out of the 50 states.

They did apply for $10 million in 2012 to help with the I-95 corridor in Providence, and that’s a good thing. But by and large, Rhode Island’s TIGER grant applications have been for a $13 million streetcar and other projects, not roads.

And yet they are asking truckers to pay more than they already do through apportionment, the Heavy-Vehicle Use Tax, IFTA, tire taxes and the 12 percent excise tax on new trucking equipment.

The governor touts the “RhodeWorks” truck-only toll plan as a job creator, but from where we sit, this proposal stands to be a job killer for Rhode Island and the nation. You know what creates and sustains jobs? Allowing truckers and others in the supply chain to operate without throwing up roadblocks in the form of toll gantries.

Bowley also sums this one up rather well.

“States around the country have touted the job-creating benefits of new distribution centers and other freight-related projects, yet this toll on trucks that Rhode Island is proposing is nothing but a job-killing proposal,” he said. “What distributor, what shipper, what receiver, what trucking company or small business is going to locate to Rhode Island with a toll plan like this on the table?”

It’s a great question and one the governor needs to consider.