Candidates for governor differ on I-95 tolls

Tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge were rejected by popular demand, but a proposed toll on Interstate 95 near the Connecticut border had less opposition.

Any toll would need federal government approval, and Rhode Island Public Radio's Ian Donnis asked the Democrats running for governor what they thought of the idea during an NBC 10 live debate Wednesday.

"Yes. I think people deserve a straightforward answer. This state should be looking in comprehensive ways," Pell said.

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras said he does not support adding a toll on I-95.

"It's a regressive tax that has an impact on people regardless of their ability to pay," Taveras said.

General Treasurer Gina Raimondo said it's a "difficult time" to institute tolls.

"In the same way that I don't want to raise taxes, I'm very reluctant to toll. We do have to find a way to pay," Raimondo said.

Todd Giroux offered a solution that could be very popular.

"Yes, I would support a toll on 95. If -- and one and only if -- that the Rhode Island license plate tag has a free pass at the Rhode Island beach," Giroux, a contractor from Bristol, said.

On the Republican side, there's a difference between the two candidates seeking the nomination.

"We don't need additional taxes to fix what's broken here. The last two years our budget increased by $1 billion. We have to get control of our spending and turn some money back," businessman Ken Block said.

Cranston Mayor Allan Fung said the idea has merit.

"I wouldn't like to see because I don't like increases, but I wouldn't rule it out as an option depending on where those dollars could be effectively used if it is an option. I'd keep it as a tool," Fung said.

In 2012, the Federal Highway Administration passed on Rhode Island's application to put tolls on Interstate 95 as part of a pilot program.