Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Is Governor McDonnell's Transportation Plan Road Kill?

You may remember Last month, Governor McDonnell announced details of his plan to spend $400 million on roads and bridges while borrowing an additional $2.9 billion over the next three years for transportation. The $400 million would come from last year's budget 'surplus' and unspent money found in an audit of the Virginia Department of Transportation  This part of his plan will probably survive in some form.

On Friday the Governor announced the other part of his transportation plan, which sadly will not survive.  The Governor would like Legislators to designate a portion of sales tax revenues to automatically go to road projects in the two most congested areas of the state, Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

Specifically, the Governor would like .25 percent of sales tax revenue, generated in those
regions, to be applied to transportation projects in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia. This would provide $140 million a year, to be pumped into transportation projects.  Seems like a good idea right?  Northern  Virginia and Hampton Roads can keep some of their tax money to deal with their biggest problem – Traffic!

This is not a new idea. Many Governors have tried to designate a piece of  revenue generated from the sales tax for transportation, but they have always been rebuffed by the big spenders in Richmond. There are two main reasons why the legislature constantly rejects this approach, first, they want to decide how to spend all sales tax money, they don’t want money appropriated before they get their grubby hands on it.  Second, and most importantly, they want to raise news taxes!! If they have to give up some of the sales tax money for roads they will have compensate for the lost revenue which means they will have to cut other programs. 

On Friday, McDonnell held a morning news conference unveiling his program, and at least he did have one Democratic senator by his side.  But the fact is legislators are likely to kill this idea.  I have seen this before.

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