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Sakonnet Bridge Tolls Move One Step Closer

The House approved the state budget proposal, leaving in tact a plan to transfer ownership of the Sakonnet River Bridge to the Bridge and Turnpike Authority.

In a 57 to 15 vote, the House of Representatives approved the $8.1 billion state spending plan late Thursday night. The legislation (2012-H 7323Aaa and attached to this post) approves the proposal to transfer ownership of the Sakonnet River Bridge from the Department of Transportation to the Rhode Island Bridge and Turnpike Authority, ultimately anticipating tolls to be placed on the span of Route 24 connecting Tiverton to Portsmouth.

The 2012-13 spending plan goes to the Senate, which has scheduled a hearing on it before its Finance Committee today at 3:30 p.m. in Room 211 on the second floor of the State House.

Rep. John Edwards (D -Tiverton, Portsmouth) and Rep. Dan Reilly (D - Portsmouth, Middletown, Newport) from Newport County made last chance efforts to halt the proposal, reports The Providence Journal.

"Our fellow representatives didn't join us as requested," said Rep. Edwards Friday morning, although noting they did get 30 votes against the ownership transfer.

Read more here in our archives on the coverage of the Sakonnet River Bridge toll debate.

The remainder of the proposed state budget restores previous cuts to programs for the developmentally disabled, accelerates implementation of the new school aid formula and assists Central Falls’ retirees, while avoiding many of the tax increases Governor Chafee proposed, including the expansion of the meals tax.

“This budget is excellent news for education and for our struggling cities and towns,” said Rep. Helio Melo, chairman of the House Finance Committee, in a press release. “In an era when we’ve often struggled to even maintain funding for many of our programs, we were able to get more money to schools sooner than expected, and also speed up money for distressed communities."

According to the press release, the budget reflects the increased resources available from the May Revenue and Caseload Estimating Conference to eliminate Gov. Lincoln Chafee's proposed acceleration of fee increases at the Division of Motor Vehicles, which will instead be phased in over three years beginning in 2014, as originally intended.

The budget reinstates $9.6 million in state and federal funding for programs for the developmentally disabled to restore a substantial portion of funding reductions made this year. It also maintains dental coverage for adults on Medicaid, which had been on the chopping block when the budget was first introduced but was restored from a combination of state funds and money from the Neighborhood Health Plan.

It includes $22 million to fully fund the second year of the new state education aid formula, as well as an additional $11 million, as the governor proposed, to accelerate the implementation. Additionally, the proposal includes the governor’s plan to give cities and towns a break on “maintenance of effort” — a requirement that their local contribution to schools not fall below what it was the year before — so they can exclude the local share of specific non-recurring expenses that no longer exist, such as debt that has since been paid off.

To assist struggling municipalities, the House concurred with the governor’s proposal to accelerate state aid payments to distressed communities, which are currently distributed in two payments, into a single payment. The bill also changes the schedule for school aid distribution so districts will have more of their aid at the start of the school year.

The version of the bill approved by the House stripped the budget of the governor’s proposal to raise the tax on restaurant meals from 8 percent to 10 percent, and also rejects an expansion of the hotel tax to include vacation rentals. Additionally, it repeals a tax enacted last year on scenic tours and transportation services.

While the bill does subject luxury clothing costing $250 or more to the sales tax for the first time, a change expected to generate $5.9 million for the state, and makes taxi and limousine rides and pet services other than veterinary costs subject to the sales tax, the House amended the bill to eliminate a provision previously approved by the House Finance Committee to add car washes to the sales tax.

The House concurred with the governor’s proposal to raise the cigarette tax from $3.46 to $3.50 per pack, to raise $1.8 million. The House kept intact the governor’s proposal for a 75-day amnesty period in the fall when delinquent taxpayers can pay back taxes without penalty, with a 25-percent reduction on interest, with an estimate that $10.9 million in unpaid taxes will be collected.

The bill includes $209 million in bond questions that will appear on the November ballot, including $50 million for modernization of Rhode Island College, including upgrades to its present nursing school facility; a new $94 million proposal for a new Veteran’s Home and assisted living facility and rehabilitation of the current facility; a $25 million bond to build affordable housing, $20 million for clean water and drinking water infrastructure and $20 million for open space and recreation (to which another $5 million of existing, non-borrowed funds will be added). The budget eliminates the need for a previously approved $21.5 million transportation bond by paying for the proposal, which includes the state match for upgrades to the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority bus fleet, through existing funds, without borrowing.

The bill includes the beginning of a process of streamlining the work of the Board of Governors for Higher Education and the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education, creating an 11-member Board of Education to help coordinate the state’s education systems to ensure that students graduating from high school are fully prepared for college. The House amended this element through an amendment introduced by Chairman Melo to eliminate a chancellor of education to whom the commissioners of higher education and elementary and secondary education would have reported.

For business, funding was included to institute electronic business permitting to make it easier to do business in Rhode Island. Also, the bill expands the field for those who can apply to the film and television tax credit program, adding theatrical and musical touring productions mounted in the state and allowing smaller-budget documentaries to apply, but also sunsets the tax credit in 2019. The proposal also sets a $5 million cap for each individual production (within the $15 million cap on the program overall), and adds a new rule excluding any entity from receiving the tax credit if they apply for a state loan or loan guaranty.

Among the proposals by the governor that were not included was a plan to lower a charge on telecommunications that funds school technology, but expand it to include cellular telephones, meaning cell phone users will not see a new 15-cent a month monthly surcharge on their bills. The budget, however, does provide the governor’s $20 million proposal for technology upgrades in local schools.

Also eliminated were Chafee’s proposals to end reimbursements to school districts for books they provide to students in private and parochial schools and for administrative costs of providing school breakfast.

Dan D June 08, 2012 at 05:39 PM
this is the death knell for the island.
East side June 08, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Good news - this is thinking long term. What we have today is a mess, a weight limit. This is due to the negligence of the State not putting money aside for maintenance. The Bridge Authority will do a great job keeping the new bridge maintained. Bravo.
Dan D June 08, 2012 at 06:00 PM
after all, they have done a fantastic job with the Newport Bridge, right? That bridge is absolutely terrifying.
Kim B June 08, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Really, East Side? Let me guess - you don't use the bridge daily, right? Or you must have deep pockets.
Dee June 08, 2012 at 07:30 PM
We have had to suffer for years waiting for the bridge to be finished and now we have to pay extra to use it? The taxes that we pay in Tiverton, Little Compton, and on the island are not enough? You have to be kidding me!
Barbara Pereira June 08, 2012 at 07:40 PM
They only care about their own pockets because they have so much and are use to getting what they want. They don't care about us.
David June 08, 2012 at 09:00 PM
VOTE NO ON ALL THE BONDS. Payback is a bisnitchel. They gave us a toll because the need the money and send all kinds of bonds to the voters to spend it. Not right. ALSO CALL ALL SENATORS ASAP. ASK THEM TO TAKE THE TOLL PROPOSAL OUT OF THE BUDGET.
Rug Doctor June 09, 2012 at 12:40 AM
People in Cranston, North Providence, Warwick could care less about a toll that they will never pay.
David June 09, 2012 at 12:45 AM
VOTE IS ON MONDAY. SPOKE TO SEN BATES AND HE AGREES TO NO TOLLS. CALL ALL OF THE SENATORS THIS WEEKEND. FLOOD THEM WITH CALLS. 1 Senator Maryellen Goodwin sen-goodwin@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 272-3102 Bio 2 Senator Juan M. Pichardo sen-pichardo@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 461-2389 Bio 3 Senator Rhoda E. Perry sen-perry@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 751-7165 Bio 4 Senator Dominick J. Ruggerio sen-ruggerio@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 222-3310 Bio 5 Senator Paul V. Jabour sen-jabour@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 751-3300 Bio 6 Senator Harold M. Metts sen-metts@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 272-0112 Bio 7 Senator Frank A. Ciccone III sen-ciccone@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 275-0949 Bio 8 Senator James E. Doyle, II sen-doyle@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 729-9988 Bio 9 Senator Michael J. Pinga sen-pinga@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 276-5594 Bio 10 Senator Walter S. Felag Jr. sen-felag@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 245-7521 Bio 11 Senator Christopher Scott Ottiano sen-ottiano@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 222-2708 Bio 12 Senator Louis P. DiPalma sen-dipalma@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 847-8540 Bio 13 Senator M. Teresa Paiva Weed sen-paivaweed@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 222-6655 Bio
David June 09, 2012 at 12:46 AM
14 Senator Daniel DaPonte sen-daponte@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 222-3438 Bio 15 Senator Donna M. Nesselbush sen-nesselbush@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 728-3244 Bio 16 Senator Elizabeth A. Crowley sen-crowley@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 725-8526 Bio 17 Senator Edward J. O'Neill sen-oneill@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 728-3295 Bio 18 Senator Frank A. DeVall, Jr. sen-devall@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 433-4353 Bio 19 Senator Bethany L. Moura sen-moura@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 222-2708 Bio
David June 09, 2012 at 12:46 AM
20 Senator Roger A. Picard sen-picard@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 769-4902 Bio 21 Senator Nicholas D. Kettle sen-kettle@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 473-7784 Bio 22 Senator John J. Tassoni Jr. sen-tassoni@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 233-2602 Bio 23 Senator Paul W. Fogarty sen-fogarty@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 949-0895 Bio 24 Senator Marc A. Cote sen-cote@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 765-3360 Bio 25 Senator Frank Lombardo, III sen-lombardo@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 270-1379 Bio 26 Senator Beatrice A. Lanzi sen-lanzi@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 946-7125 Bio 27 Senator Hanna M. Gallo sen-gallo@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 942-8566 Bio 28 Senator Joshua Miller sen-miller@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 276-5582 Bio 29 Senator Michael J. McCaffrey sen-mccaffrey@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 739-7576 Bio 30 Senator William A. Walaska sen-walaska@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 737-1065 Bio 31 Senator Erin P. Lynch sen-lynch@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 739-8500 Bio 32 Senator David E. Bates sen-bates@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 246-1379 Bio
David June 09, 2012 at 12:46 AM
33 Senator Glenford J. Shibley sen-shibley@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 222-2708 Bio 34 Senator Francis T. Maher, Jr. sen-maher@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 222-2708 Bio 35 Senator Dawson Tucker Hodgson sen-hodgson@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 203-3256 Bio 36 Senator James C. Sheehan sen-sheehan@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 885-1988 Bio 37 Senator V. Susan Sosnowski sen-sosnowski@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 783-7704 Bio 38 Senator Dennis L. Algiere sen-algiere@rilin.state.ri.us (401) 222-2708 Bio
Joe Sousa. June 09, 2012 at 10:40 AM
Instead of putting in bills to block tolls, our Rep,s should have been working to fund the DOT for the past several years. Too little too late was the problem on the house floor. With in an eight billion dollar budget there is room for bridge maintenance. Go along to get along got us Tolls.
BD June 09, 2012 at 11:04 AM
Joe, when our TCC-endorsed representative is the laughing stock of the General Assembly, don't expect any help from upstate. When we elect representation like that, we deserve what we get. What has YOUR rep done to fund the DOT for the past several years? More to the point, what has your rep. done at all the last several years?
Joe Sousa. June 09, 2012 at 11:37 AM
This is my point. They didn't attempt to fund the DOT . They voted for budgets that sent the Gas Tax to other areas in the budget. We need more Rep's like Dan. Not because of his past and the lies he told. Because he saw the flaw in the Democrats logic. Funding for bridge repairs was taken away from the DOT many years ago. We allowed it to happen and we continue to allow it to happen with this budget. You ask "What has YOUR rep done to fund the DOT for the past several years? More to the point, what has your rep. done at all the last several years?" My Rep is Edwards . He put in bills to block Tolls, but never fought to fund DOT.
Jane Doe June 09, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Rep. Edwards should have spent less time on his repugnant marijuana legislation and more time on this more important matter. Very disappointed in him. I hope the local Democratic party comes up with an opponent to Edwards the "happy smoke" representative. While not a Gordon fan, this article for some reason refuses to acknowledge that Rep. Gordon did speak at the General Assembly hearing on Thursday and objected to the toll.
BD June 09, 2012 at 12:18 PM
Atty. Jane, why do you find Rep. Edwards legislation repugnant? How will it effect you? You and councilor Floon been laying a little low since the FTR. But then what's the TCC got to do other than attack our community and schools during elections? Why don't you find something positive to do for your community?
John June 09, 2012 at 02:21 PM
WHAT A JOKE!!!! Why dont they put a tax on something that everyone uses in R.I. that will help pay for our roads and highways? Instead there only taxing a handful of Rhode Islanders. I wonder how much it will cost for the payroll? I bet a toll collector will make 60k a year with full bennys and vaction time! The rest of the money will go to all the roads in R.I. But wait! Now there will be more money floating around for the politicians to find a way to put in there pockets. NICE
student June 09, 2012 at 02:53 PM
i am a student at PHS,who plays sports and lives in little compton.How will i be able to pay the tolls?My parents can not afford it and there is NOT a bus available after practice.Will there be an exemption for these students????Oh thats right,nobody seems to care about us students these days.
Robert E June 09, 2012 at 02:53 PM
There will be no toll takers on this bridge. The tolls on the new bridge are going to be open road tolls this means there are no toll takers no cash lanes. If you do not have an ez pass the system will take a picture of your license plate and you will be billed $4.00 for the toll plus an administration fee for having to bill you. I don't know what the fee they will charge but I have seen other states charge anywhere from $1.00 to $5.00. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_road_tolling
Robert E June 09, 2012 at 02:56 PM
They are in the process of doing this on the Newport bridge also and then there will be no toll takers there either.
Gerry Jones June 10, 2012 at 01:21 AM
JD/nancy dreggs, that's the best you can come up with? Your Rep was successful with a major legislation and you say he didn't do enough? What have you done, nancy? Nothing, would be the answer there. Edwards even pushed through the TCC piece of crap charter change. So why bash someone who gets it done for Tiverton? Maybe you and the other TCC faithful should be pushing for someone new to take over for my Rep- the lying Gordon. Be careful what you ask for nancy. BTW, when are you going to announce so I can send Edwards some money to kick your but again?
Gerry Jones June 10, 2012 at 02:16 AM
RD/Manfred Can't Tell- why should they care about US when you and your TCC zealots only care about your tax rate and not about the people in Tiverton? When you wake up some day and see that the TCC has been the worst thing to happen to Tiverton, you might understand.Until then, we can only hope that our real Reps continue to fight for us and that Tiverton wakes up and sees the TCC for what they really are- self indulgent fools.
Gerry Jones June 10, 2012 at 03:07 AM
Joe, BTW I just checked and your assertion that the money went to the general fund is not correct. The gas tax went to RIDOT and RIDOT only. The folks at RIDOT wasted our money, not our Reps. At least your Rep did something; mine has been and continues to be a complete waste of our time. What other lies do you want me to dispel, Joe? How about that you are not one of the faithful TCC zealots? Or that lord nelson really cares about Tiverton? How about robbie and the VP of the school committee really recycle and pay for all those "little bags" . Got any ideas, Joe?
Joe Sousa. June 10, 2012 at 10:23 PM
student, Register to vote and help us kick this Crazy Gov. out of office, along with every Incumbent legislator . We need to send some bull dogs up state. Sending sheep doesn't seem to work. Vote conservative common sense candidates, Lets end the death spiral economy and social giveaway programs that have robed our state of its prosperity.
Tom June 10, 2012 at 10:52 PM
Can the governor veto this part of the budget?
Robert E June 11, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Tom why would he do that he was the one that proposed it in the first place. The governor has been pushing for toll from the begining of this project.
Robert E June 11, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Gerry you are right about the general fund but wrong about the money only going to DOT. Out of the 33 cent per gallon gas tax 21.75 cents go to DOT 9.75 cents go to RIPTA 1 cent goes to DEA/DHS .5cents go to DEM.
ATavares June 13, 2012 at 01:00 PM
The State should put tolls on the WashingtonSmall bussiness in PortsmouthBridge in Providence instead of a 1/2 mile bridge between Tiverton and Porstmouth, I don't beleive our wonderful Senators would be so quick to pull the trigger on a bridge in their area that carries 20 plus times the amount of traffic than the Sakonnet Bridge.Some small business in Portsmouth will die a slow death while Fall River Mass will gain their loss
ATavares June 13, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Washington Bridge

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