Open Thread: Ballot Question 3

The floor (aka the comments section) is open, for people who’d like to discuss why they will or will not be voting for or against the third question that will appear on the Nov. 2 Rhode Island ballot…

Approval of this question will authorize the State of Rhode Island to issue general obligation bonds, refunding bonds, and temporary notes in an amount not to exceed eighty million dollars ($80,000,000) to match federal funds and provide direct funding for improvements to the state’s highways, roads and bridges and four million seven hundred thousand dollars ($4,700,000) to purchase and/or rehabilitate buses for the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority’s bus fleet.
Voting yes authorizes the state government to borrow the money for the projects described above. Without voter approval, the borrowing cannot occur.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
13 years ago

I consider this a definite no. We have this issue every two years, which makes this a recurring expense, thus an inappropriate use of bonds. If you run things for this way for too long, you’ll eventually pay more in debt service in any given year than you’ll spend in that year for the item itself. This is the hallmark of the state’s free lunch, short-term thinking. It might be painful, but it is absolutely necessary to reject this.

13 years ago

Agreed with Mario here. If I recall, we’ve been doing this for decades, we’re basically ‘leasing’ our highways now, in addition to maintaining the overhead of ‘owning’ them.
Roads, highways, sidewalks, sewers, administration and education buildings… Upkeep on those things should be -inside- the annual budget, and the finance committee should be -required- to fund their upkeep as such.
Also, the ‘federal matching funds’ thing is a red-herring. It’s not ‘free money’ just because it comes from the federal government, it’s money that comes from my income taxes. Just because my credit card offers ‘bonus points’ doesn’t mean that I use it to pay the bills every month.

13 years ago

Like I always do on the referendum for transportation bonds, I’m voting NO!
It doesn’t matter if we borrow these funds or not. Here’s why:
In 2008 we borrowed $87,215,000. How are our roads?
In 2006 we borrowed $88,500,000. How are our roads?
In 2004 we borrowed $66,520,000. How are our roads?
In 2002 we borrowed $63,200,000. How are our roads?
In 2000 we borrowed $62,510,000. How are our roads?
In 1998 we borrowed $65,700,000. How are our roads?
In 1996 we borrowed $80,180,000. How are our roads?
This is as far back as I went. I think it’s time we PAID UP FRONT to maintain our roads. It’s why we pay our taxes. Where is that tax money if we need to pass bonds to do what our taxes are suppose to do?

13 years ago

RITaxpayer, if you add all that up, it’s about half a billion dollars overall. Debt service on that is (cocktail napkin math here) about $45 million/year.
Floating bonds to spread out the cost of massive projects makes sense, but the day-to-day has to be done inside the budget. The path we’re on now will only make financing our upkeep cost 40% more than paying for it outright. Compound that with how absurdly expensive it is to get a public works project done around here, and we’re really in bad shape.
This is the time when we should realize that we’re in a hole, stop digging, and figure out ways to get topside again.
Unfortunately, I think it’s going to have to be a two-pronged approach: The cost of delivering services like highway repair and bridge maintenance is going to have to come down (per-mile), but we also need to expand the amount of it happening. That might mean that taxes do, in fact, have to go -up-, but not to ‘feed the beast’ as much as to ‘actually do the job’.

13 years ago

RITaxpayer has scored a bullseye and done us all a service in revealing that information.
A precondition to any new debt for transportation should be the restoration of a trust fund for all gas and road taxes which will be used exclusively for roads and bridges. No more pouring it into the black hole of the “General Fund”.
And that means roads and bridges. Not bike paths, museums, or subsidies to RIPTA.

James Kabala
James Kabala
13 years ago

I’m a first-time Rhode Island voter (I was a student, but just recently changed my registration), and I didn’t know this same issue had been the ballot literally every single election for fourteen years. RITaxpayer, you have flipped me from a yes to a no.

Show your support for Anchor Rising with a 25-cent-per-day subscription.