To the senators and representatives preparing to vote on Bill 13H–5137 & Bill 13Hâ5644:
The truth and the reasons to reject the Sakonnet River Bridge toll:
1. The proposed Sakonnet Bridge toll is not for maintenance of the Sakonnet Bridge.
According to DOT Director Michael P. Lewis (a RITBA Board Member) at the Portsmouth and Tiverton toll hearings of December 3 and 4, 2012, a revenue stream of $19 million per year in Sakonnet Bridge toll revenue is required by RITBA before RITBA will accept responsibility for maintenance and upgrade of the Jamestown Bridge, and the Sakonnet Bridge as part of a four-bridge RITBA system. RITBA would then use $2 million per year (10 %) on the Sakonnet Bridge, and $17 million per year (90%) on the other three bridges for maintenance and improvement, thereby saving the DOT $2 million per year in Sakonnet Bridge maintenance, and an unspecified amount in Jamestown Bridge maintenance and upgrade costs. Therefore $19 million per year would be raised from the toll resulting in more than $19 million to be spent on other bridges and roads,
2. The Sakonnet Bridge toll unfairly targets Newport County and Bristol for increased taxation.
Sakonnet Bridge toll could be justified only if
A. The toll were based on a true maintenance cost that DOT Director Lewis indicates is $2 million/year — not $19 million/year; and if …
B. Every other bridge in the state had a similar toll based upon its maintenance cost.
3. The Sakonnet Bridge toll could result in a Rhode Island annual tax loss that is greater than the proposed annual Sakonnet Bridge toll of $19 million per year.
The Sakonnet Bridge toll would result in an indirect tax loss of $10,000 to $1 million per week to the State of Rhode Island (an economic impact study has never been conducted) due to loss of sales taxes, business taxes, and income taxes from lost businesses, and from failed businesses, and could make Rhode Island legislators the fools amongst the nation’s legislators.
4. The Sakonnet Bridge toll would create a bad precedent.
The Sakonnet toll would create a precedent for the creation of taxes that seriously affect one portion of the state for the main purpose of increasing state revenues and/or benefiting other portions of the state, merely because it is possible to pick on a group that has fewer state senators and representatives to defend its taxpayers.
Roger A. Bennis