LETTER: The Double Taxing of Newport County Residents and Workers

Tiverton resident Roger A. Bennis weighs in on the fight against imposing tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge.


To the Editor: 

After DOT Director Michael P. Lewis indicated on March 26 that he wanted to solve the incompetent management ofthe DOT that allows RI roads and bridges to fall apart by doubling a part of the taxation of Newport County residents and workers, I wrote a Letter to the Editor exposing his plan as “The Double Taxing of Newport County Residents andWorkers”.

Since then, the Governor has jumped on board the proposal because he sees it as a means of raising additional revenue. Of course the Governor has recognized the Sakonnet Bridge Toll concept as double taxing Newport County residents and taxpayers, as well as visitors. However, the DOT Director and the Governor are not honest enough to admit that this is double taxation of Newport County residents and visitors, because that could influence the implementation of the tolls that could prove to be a significant enhancement of the State and the DOT coffers. But why have other State Legislators voted to accept the Sakonnet Bridge tolls, tolls that would result in double transportation taxation for Newport County. I can see only one reason why legislators would accept the entire concept, and that reason is the fact that by accepting the Newport County toll on the Sakonnet Bridge, they saw that the money raised from the tolls on the two Newport County bridges would divert transportation money that would otherwise be directed to Newport County, to their counties as added transportation funding for their districts. I suspect that many state legislators closed one eye to the truth about where the extra money was coming from, and only saw with one eye – the added money that would be available to their districts. These legislators acted much like the man who purchases a $2,000 television from the back of a van for only $500 or $1,000; without questioning where it came from.

On March 26, 2012, DOT Director Michael P. Lewis made it clear how at least some of the money from the tolls would be spent. Tolls from the Pell Bridge and the new Sakonnet bridge would be dedicated to repairs of all four Newport County spans with about $10 million to $15 million a year reserved for other East Bay road and bridge projects, Lewis said. That would ensure local infrastructure projects do not have to compete for finite state resources, he said.

Translation: The tolls would be used for road and bridge projects in Newport County, so that no other transportation funds would be spent in Newport County. This would leave all the money from gas taxes, from state income for roads and bridges, and from Federal money received by RI for roads and bridges for use in other counties in the state.

The real argument against the Sakonnet Bridge Toll is not that it would impose many hardships upon Newport County. Any form of taxation imposes hardships upon people, particularly during a depression. The real argument against the Sakonnet Bridge toll is the fact that it is clearly double taxation of Newport County, with the benefits of the unfair toll going to the remainder of the state.
As I said in my original Letter to the Editor on March 30, 2012: “As horrible as Mr. Lewis’s plans are, at least if the plans are expanded to the entire State it could result in EQUAL INJUSTICE FOR ALL IN THE STATE OF RI.”


Roger A. BennisTiverton

Tiverton Resident

Joe Sousa. August 28, 2012 at 08:26 PM
The reality is the majority of the legislature will not change their minds. We need to push the Governor in to stopping this along with our Congressional Delegation. I have spoken with several Reps who voted for this and they will not be changing their minds. They are convinced it is the right course of action stating we have a larger portion of bridge deck area than other parts of the state. I also doubt they will agree to move the toll off the bridge. The Gov. and our Congressional Delegation need to be our focus in this fight.
topspin September 01, 2012 at 07:59 PM
The most effective tactic might be to file legislation to dissolve the RI Bridge & Turnpike Authority, and transfer it's responsibilities back to the DOT. This might give them the most headaches. I don't see why we need two authorities to do the same thing. It would be cheaper to eliminate duplication.


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