RI Trucking Association cuts ties with lobbyists, spokesman

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Rhode Island Trucking Association is no longer working with the lobbying and communications team that has been guiding its opposition to Gov. Gina Raimondo’s toll proposal, just as the plan appears to be gaining steam at the State House.

Chris Maxwell, the trucking group’s president, confirmed Friday night that his organization has “parted company amicably” with lobbying firm The Mayforth Group, led by Rick McAuliffe and Jeffrey Taylor, and communications specialist Bill Fischer’s True North Communications.

“We’ve gone separate ways,” Maxwell told WPRI.com. “We just had a disagreement over how to finish this thing. There are no hard feelings – they’ve taken us to the 20-yard line. We’ve just got a little bit of a different view on how to finish this.” He added: “I have the utmost respect for them. They served us very well, but we just had a difference of opinion.”

Fischer, McAuliffe and Taylor did not immediately respond to questions about whether they tendered their resignations.

The shakeup in the industry’s approach to the toll fight comes a day after Raimondo, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed rolled out a revised version of the proposal that appears to be on the fast track. The House and Senate finance committees have scheduled hearings on the bill for next Wednesday and Thursday.

While the revised legislation reduces the maximum toll amounts that truckers would have to pay, Maxwell made clear any compromise that includes tolling is off the table.

“Our strategy has been since day one, no tolls – one toll is too many,” he said. “We still believe the numbers are flawed, and we’re not down at the State House to cut any deals or make nice with anybody. This is a proposition that’s been, from day one, we’re against tolls.”

“We think we were losing our messaging,” he added.

Earlier Friday, Maxwell gave a tough interview to Transport Topics, the American Trucking Association’s publication, in which he argued Raimondo “hasn’t said an educated word about this issue since day one” and that Mattiello “doesn’t really understand trucking.” He also suggested Mattiello is overconfident in predicting he will have enough votes to pass the toll plan in the House.Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He hosts Executive Suite and writes The Saturday Morning Post. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

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