Full RI House passes budget plan that eliminates bridge tolls


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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tubby barton

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.

Friday, June 13, 2014 | Report this

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.

Friday, June 13, 2014 | Report this

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.