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

Jim L August 28, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Well the town was given lots of lip service last night by local reps, the downward economic sprial this will cause is going to be very hard to take, and when tourist and bussinesess stop coming to Newport county the only one still paying tolls will be mainy the residents
Just Another Taxpayer August 28, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Jim L, aren't you upset by the fact that the Town Council took no action last night?
David Nelson August 28, 2012 at 02:49 PM
All- PLEASE keep the conversation civil and professional. It is better for everyone that way.
Just Another Taxpayer August 28, 2012 at 04:08 PM
I find it ironic that Mr. Nelson is calling for civil and professional conversation in light of the fact that he wrote an attack letter which he had Jim L. submit?
Tom August 28, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Here is the translation for what Dave Nelson posted: "It is better for everyone if we pretend like the TCC didn't try to gut the school budget. It is also better if we not ask too many questions about the tolls. We don't want anyone asking why the Town Council/ TCC didn't do more to stop this back in the Spring. Otherwise people will know we were too busy trying to push for option 2 at the FTR instead of paying attention to what the General Assembly was doing."
David Nelson August 28, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Gents, please let us have a civil discussion, on all sides
Just Another Taxpayer August 28, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Why don't you answer this question, why did you have Jim L. submit a letter which you gave him to post under his name? By the way, why do you assume that everyone who posted is a man?
Jim L August 28, 2012 at 07:34 PM
if you had a real name he just might, go back and ask brian for further instructions would you, we are trying to help folks
Tom August 28, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Jim it's too bad that the Town Council wouldn't let you speak at the meeting about the tolls. This is an issue we agree on. NO TOLLS. However, I do find it funny that Nelson is one of the members of the council and they were the ones who wouldn't let anyone speak. I hope this comment was civil enough for good old Nelly.
Jim L August 28, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Tom i hate to tell ya but Mr Nelson didn't know about the no public talking eiher, turns out that the only way the reps would come, that to me is a bigger problem, but i will say that the council is reaching out in many ways and very invovled in this, and and others who were there last night did get apoliges from some councilers and as you could see'speaking in public is not my strong suit, i will say the peition drive is getting stronger everyday 24 new places yesterday, folks are getting madder and much is taking place behind the scenes, i'm just trying to get as many names as i can to put with the economic study that the are going to have to really perform now
Jim L August 28, 2012 at 07:57 PM
so tom we can argue back inforth and any other thing but i thank you for your support on this, it's a very very bad thing for Tiverton and Newport county
Joe Sousa. August 28, 2012 at 08:00 PM
If you haven't sent that letter to your Congressional Rep. and Senators yet, I would suggest you get it done. The only way to guarantee this wont happen is to block it at the Federal Level. Write that letter today!
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.
Jim L August 30, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Just so we are clear on this folks, The RI gas tax is .33 cents a gallon, so when you buy ten gallons of gas $3.30 of that money is suppose to go the roads and bridges, smoeone told me that infact 40% of that money go's to roads and such, the other 60% goes into the general fund, And i must agree with some of what Joe says. part of this bridge i am told was built with federal money, and NOw a Real economic impact study MUST be done, I believe 100% that this is not a DONE DEAL , thats only true if we let them do this to us, starting with letting the guys who are in office be let out of office
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.
Jim L September 01, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Topspin i will say that those facts and figures are being studied and that is a very good point, it seems that all they do is manage the workers they have,most of the jobs are contracted out, I don't know if they are bid on or what, but someone in this group is on that, with all the time and money i spend doing this I wouldn't bother if i thought i was just spinning my wheels


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