Full RI House passes budget plan that eliminates bridge tolls

From left, Tony Viveiros, former Middletown town councilor; Rep. Deborah Ruggiero; Rep. John G. Edwards; Sally Black, Tiverton School Committee chairwoman; Donna Lafleur, member of the Sakonnet Tolls Opposition Platform (STOP); Jeanne Smith, member of STOP; Rep. Dennis M. Canario; and Rep. Linda Finn celebrate the House passage of Article 21, which bans tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge. From left, Tony Viveiros, former Middletown town councilor; Rep. Deborah Ruggiero; Rep. John G. Edwards; Sally Black, Tiverton School Committee chairwoman; Donna Lafleur, member of the Sakonnet Tolls Opposition Platform (STOP); Jeanne Smith, member of STOP; Rep. Dennis M. Canario; and Rep. Linda Finn celebrate the House passage of Article 21, which bans tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge.
From left, Tony Viveiros, former Middletown town councilor; Rep. Deborah Ruggiero; Rep. John G. Edwards; Sally Black, Tiverton School Committee chairwoman; Donna Lafleur, member of the Sakonnet Tolls Opposition Platform (STOP); Jeanne Smith, member of STOP; Rep. Dennis M. Canario; and Rep. Linda Finn celebrate the House passage of Article 21, which bans tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge.

From left, Tony Viveiros, former Middletown town councilor; Rep. Deborah Ruggiero; Rep. John G. Edwards; Sally Black, Tiverton School Committee chairwoman; Donna Lafleur, member of the Sakonnet Tolls Opposition Platform (STOP); Jeanne Smith, member of STOP; Rep. Dennis M. Canario; and Rep. Linda Finn celebrate the House passage of Article 21, which bans tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge.

After debate lasting past midnight, the full Rhode Island House of  Representatives approved an $8.78 billion budget for the next fiscal year on Friday.

The budget includes provisions that eliminate the Sakonnet River Bridge toll, replacing it with an overall roads and bridges maintenance plan funded by temporary surcharges on various motor vehicle fees as well as a hike in the gasoline tax.

And under the evolving plan that was approved by the House, the RI Turnpike and Bridge Authority will remain in control of the Sakonnet River Bridge (all four bridges) and will receive gas tax revenue for their maintenance.

The budget, which was approved just after 12:20 a.m. Friday, goes next to the state Senate and then to the governor for his signature. The Senate Finance Committee is expected to take up the House’s approved budget on Monday. Final House vote on the overall budget was 63-12 (the vote to eliminate Sakonnet River Bridge tolls was 63-11).

Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Portsmouth, Tiverton), who helped champion the compromise in the House, said the Sakonnet Bridge toll quagmire was one of the toughest obstacles he has faced in his political career.

“I truly believe the tolls would have come at the unnecessary and destructive sacrifice of the Aquidneck Island economy, and the fact that we were able to combine our efforts and successfully resolve such a contentious issue tells me that today is not only a ‘win’ for the East Bay, but for the democratic process as well,” Rep. Edwards said. “Had we not come to this compromise, the consequences of allowing tolls on both sides of the island would have been egregious at best. Our delegation in both chambers worked extremely hard to come up with creative solutions for every road block that stood in the way of a fair solution. Mark my words: this compromise will be engraved in history as a turning point for Rhode Island.”

Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton), the Senate leader on the pushback against the tolls, said that he is ecstatic about the House’s decision to pass a budget protecting the economic vitality of the East Bay.

“We have frequently been listed as one of the worst states in the country when it comes to maintaining our infrastructure, and that is an issue that has undoubtedly drawn some dark spots on our public image,” he said. “Infrastructure, believe it or not, plays a crucial role in how attractive the state is to outside businesses, tourists and other entities that fuel our economy. This is the beginning of a brighter, stronger Rhode Island. (We) are grateful for the unwavering support of our colleagues, the finance committee chairmen, leadership, and the dynamic Aquidneck Island community, who remained patient with us and fought hard alongside us for equal treatment.”

House Finance Committee Chairman Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (D-Dist. 69, Portsmouth,Bristol) said, “A toll on the bridge would have been devastating to our businesses, and would have made daily life very expensive for the people of our area. It was personally very important to me to protect my neighbors from being held hostage by tolls.”

Representative Edwards and Senator DiPalma also acknowledged the efforts of their colleagues, Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton), Rep. Linda Finn (D-Dist. 72, Middletown, Portsmouth), Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown), Chairman Gallison, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Daniel Da Ponte (D-Dist. 14, East Providence), Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton), Sen. Christopher S. Ottiano (R-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol) and Sen. David E. Bates (R-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence).

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4 Comments

  1. tubby barton said:

    The local baggers so badly wanted to take credit for this when they are to blame for the tolls in the first place. Thanks to all of you that actually accomplished something instead of badmouthing our elected leaders and offering nothing of substance to remedy the tolls. Let this be a lesson to those that want to elect ideologues like the PCC/TCC and Dan Gordon that were ineffective and asleep at the switch when this legislation was first passed.

  2. Joyce said:

    They are all taking credit for no Tolls on the Bridge, but conveniently NOT TELLING us that they also approved paying off 38 Studios in this budget, so that GA can avoid being investigated for the payoffs that some on these thieves took.
    C.Y. A. Democrats.

  3. Joe Sousa said:

    The grass roots effort drew the media attention needed to tell this crazy Governor he’s wrong. The Legislature should have been fixing the bridges for the last thirty years. They spent the gas tax on pay raises and social programs. It was irresponsible management of public assets. The fee increases will be permanent we all know that. The just lowered the inspection fee a few years ago supposedly to help the poor working residents.

  4. Jim Lipe said:

    Jay Edwards ? Why did you first vote FOR A bill to stop the tolls but then vote YES for a budget that contained TOLLS, What was more important in that budget that the people that elected YOU? Was it perhaps the fact that if you HAD voted against the budget you might have made other Dems in NEWPORT County look BAD? Was Your’s n Mikes Burks plan to MITIGATE the tolls even LEGAL. Why Did you spend About ZERO time with the folks that gathered all those names, checked them rechearch on budget n bills n TOLL history, Why did you side with people that have been defeated On the FTR and The zero budget? Did you really say. “that petition is a joke n tolls are a done deal” as I’m told you said very early in this fight, From what I have seen you did nothing but see which way the wind was blowing? Let me ask you this, You know very well who i am and you know very well that myself and others gathered over 30,000 signature against tolls but you hardly ever spoke to us n never to me. To me you have completely FAILED at the job you were elected to do PERIOD, and anyone would be better than both our towns than you, Your what 3 rd in power now, you got that for taking care of others NOT US THE VOTERS!!! This issue was taken over by voters and gotten rid of by VOTERS, thousands of them. They rose up in numbers that were to big to ignore, something you should not have done. I will except no excuse for what your actions were and will not let you try to take credit for the work they did, It WAS YOUR JOB and Others DID IT Plain n SIMPLE How come you tried to file a bill against just one PAC in this town? I sincerly hope that some citizen steps up to fill your spot because to me you need to go. Jim Lipe

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