Governor Gina Raimondo continued to press Monday for the General Assembly to approve her plan to pay for bridge improvements through new tolls on trucks, although the person with the most impact on the outcome -- House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello -- said he remains undecided.
Speaking after an unrelated news conference, Raimondo disagreed with the Rhode Island Trucking Association's view that her toll plan needs further study. The governor said revisions to the initial plan she unveiled in late May, including rebates that would scale back the cost of tolls, more than justify her $620 million bridge-repair plan.
"Good issues have been raised. They’ve been addressed and it’s time for action," Raimondo said. "We’ve been studying this infrastructure problem for about a decade; it’s time to take action."
In a news release hours ahead of a House Finance Committee hearing, Rhode Island Trucking Association President Christopher Maxwell said, “This process is moving entirely too fast and there have been no discussions or analysis on the fiscal impact of the proposed toll plan to the trucking industry or the business community. Again, we want to be part of the solution, but there are simply too many unanswered questions at this point. We would support the formation of a commission to properly vet the impact of tolls on all Rhode Islanders and believe that it will produce a more collaborative and transparent process.”
The Senate Finance Committee is expected to vote in favor of Raimondo's Rhode Works plan Tuesday afternoon, so the House remains the big question. Lawmakers are expected to end their 2015 session either Wednesday or Thursday.
Speaking ahead of the House Finance hearing, Mattiello said, "My only reservations and concern revolve around the impact on our economy .... When we take up an initiative this significant, I want to make sure there's not going to be a negative impact on the economy, and I'm not suggesting there would be. But I just want to be cautious."
"Until I'm convinced that there will be no negative impact with such a large proposal, then I'm going to proceed cautiously," Mattiello said. "It may end up coming out this week and being voted on, if all of my concerns are satisfied; it may not. It may just need a little more time."