To the editor:
The bridge toll debate could have turned out much differently. As we near the end of this legislative session, our representatives and senators will be taking one of the most important votes of the year when the final budget is voted out of the respective finance committees.
The vote is important for many reasons and significant in that it requires a two-thirds majority of the House and Senate to pass. When I was a member of the House, and bridge tolls were proposed, I was able to work with my colleagues to get 30 votes against the bridge tolls. It was not the simple majority required to defeat the measure, but it was a diverse group of legislators, a majority not from Aquidneck Island or Newport County, who had different reasons to vote against tolls.
If all 30 of those votes remained against the budget as they were against the tolls, the final budget would have failed by five votes. When the final vote and pressure from “leadership” came, too many representatives bailed, and the tolls could have been stopped. With the debate raging and the imposition of tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge imminent, every legislator from Newport County should pledge to withhold their vote on the final budget until the bridge tolls are repealed.
Without their votes, “leadership” would have difficulties getting enough votes to ensure passage. It would have no effect on this current fiscal year’s budget, or that of the coming fiscal year, and would set the stage for transportation financing in Rhode Island to be fixed with the more global solution that is necessary, and would not disproportionately tax Aquidneck Island residents.
Daniel P. Reilly