Transportation Bond: Let Them “Scramble”

The Governor was out pushing the $87.2 million transportation bond yesterday. I understand the pragmatic reasons–especially in a tight budget year–but the fiscal irresponsibility of taking on 30 years of debt to fund a portion of what should be a regular budget item has to stop.

Gov. Donald L. Carcieri and R.I. Department of Transportation Director Michael P. Lewis today used a news conference touting Warwick’s Intermodal Train Station to push – or “advertise,” as Carcieri said – the $87.2 million transportation bond that will go before state voters on Nov. 4.
“The voters of our state have been very supportive of transportation bonds, they have,” Carcieri said. “We’ve been very judicious this year, in terms of things we’ve put on the ballot … We need this transportation bond to pass because a piece of it is going here.”
Lewis, the DOT chief, said that about $100 million of the $267 million intermodal project is dependent on the bond, which appears as Question 1 on the Rhode Island ballot. (READ MORE) The state bond issue would be matched with $440 million in federal transportation funding, Carcieri added.
But if the bond question doesn’t pass, “we’ll have to scramble, but we’ll come up with it,” the governor added.

Remember, throw in the debt service over the life of the $87.2 million transportation bond (and the others we pass every couple years) and Rhode Islanders are paying more than the amount indicated on the ballot. Maybe the Governor is dropping a hint here? If the bond doesn’t pass, the Legislature will find the money. Further, maybe it will get them used to the idea of including transportation and infrastructure in the regular budget. So I say let ’em scramble. It’s better for the short and long term.
ADDENDUM: Tom Sgouros recently provided a more detailed explanation of the history of RI’s Transportation bonds and why they’re a bad idea. A snippet:

Counting debt service paid from within the department’s budget, we now pay almost $100 million every year in DOT interest payments. How does that make you feel about borrowing $40 million more next year? Do you think that’s a sensible way to run the state? {emphasis in original}

And here is a list of the recent RI Transportation bonds: 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008.

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Mike Cappelli
Mike Cappelli
12 years ago

I have to believe that many of the uses for these funds are worthwhile. But I am voting against every single bond issue on the state and local level – for one reason: our government has proven itself to be utterly incompetent stewards of our finances. Therefore, they get no more money until they can demonstrate the ability to handle money properly.
Passing these bonds issues would be tantamount to giving money to a crack addict – you just know they are going to waste it.
Too bad – NO MORE MONEY!

Tom W
Tom W
12 years ago

Ditto!

Andrew
Andrew
12 years ago

How is it that every election year it seems that these ridiculous bond questions come up for review to the voters. Vote No on both of these garbage questions. How about the concept of cutting spending? Maybe if we stop allowing the idiots in the General Assembly to swipe the credit card on behalf of the taxpayer we’ll actually see some change. I agree with the article. Lets let them “scramble” to find the money to keep the State running. I’m tired of the incompetence and suggest that every single person reading this, vote against any incumbent in office. I don’t care if the incumbent is running against a monkey. Vote for the monkey. Nothing is going to change if we keep voting these bums in!!

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