R.I. DOT leaves highway logo fee discussion to legislature

Posted 2/11/11

PROVIDENCE – After facing fierce opposition from business owners, the R.I. Department of Transportation has backed down from a plan to charge businesses whose logos appear on informational signs along the state’s highways.

The R.I. State Traffic Commission had been slated to discuss the issue earlier this week, but the DOT pulled the request. DOT spokesman Bryan Lucier said Friday that the DOT decided the General Assembly and governor were better positioned to address the issue.

“It’s really a much larger decision than simply signs,” Lucier said. “By moving it to the General Assembly it will really go through a complete, comprehensive public process.”

Last fall the DOT proposed charging businesses who added their logos after Jan. 1 a $300 fee for each sign. The annual fee would increase incrementally until reaching $1,200 annually by 2017.

At the time, the plan drew fire from then state Sen. Leonidas Raptakis, D-Coventry, who owns Venus Pizza in Coventry and has logos on information signs. In January, Raptakis met with DOT Director Michael Lewis and other agency officials to express his concerns that the fee would hurt small businesses and the state that taxes their sales.

On Thursday, Raptakis said he was pleased with the DOT’s decision to let the lawmakers and Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee tackle the topic.

“Hopefully the legislature can come out with a better proposal that will be a lot more fair to everyone,” Raptakis said.

Raptakis said he hoped lawmakers would consider pegging annual fees to gross sales.

A spokesman for Chafee said it was too early to tell whether the sign fees would find their way into the proposed budget Chafee is slated to deliver to lawmakers in early March.

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