State hires firm to figure out economic impact of implementing truck tolls in different ways

Industrials Associated Press

The state has hired an economic forecasting firm to figure out how implementing Gov. Gina Raimondo's proposal to toll large commercial trucks in a variety of ways could affect the economy.

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The Democratic governor proposed the tolls to pay for a $500 million revenue bond to fund bridge repairs.

The state finalized a contract with the Massachusetts-based Regional Economic Models Inc. on Monday for $50,000. The firm is evaluating the economic impact of up to nine scenarios.

The list includes the current proposal of tolling large commercial trucks and offering tax rebates and grants for truckers as well as alternatives that weren't proposed.

The alternatives include reducing the tolls while adding to the vehicle registration tax or to the motor fuel tax or reducing the tolls while increasing the fuel tax and continuing to offer the rebates and grants for truckers.

Raimondo spokeswoman Marie Aberger said Tuesday the administration isn't considering tolling cars or any large, broad-based tax increases on all residents.

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Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said he's not favoring any of the options and there are some he wouldn't consider but he wanted to see all of the options. Mattiello said he's still considering calling for a special session this fall to work on the proposal.

The Senate has endorsed Raimondo's plan. The House has not.

The study is due in mid-September.

The firm's proposal says it also will figure out the tolls' impact on the economy depending on the percentage of trucks that pass through the state instead of stopping. Theoretically, trucks making deliveries could pass on the cost of the tolls as a surcharge for goods.

The firm will forecast the impact of fixing bridges as planned without accelerating the schedule by tolling trucks to pay for the bond.