Tonight The Richmond War Room reports that a package of legislation will hit the floor that allocates $2.4 billion for transportation spending. The details of this package seem to fall short of what I was hoping for, although there’s so much in these 8 bills and 20 pieces of legislation it’s going to take some time to sort the whole thing out. A few things about it concern me.
The majority of the funding comes from a $1.5 billion bond issue that would be put before the voters in a 2007 referendum. So really what we’re talking about is a $900 million spending package, with an additional $1.5 billion that would become available if the voters decided to take on the interest and principle obligations that would result from a bond issue. That’s hardly a certain thing.
Of that $900 million, $339 million comes from already programmed funding, so the amount of additional transportation spending is only $561 million. We have a $2 billion surplus, and all we can devote to our number one statewide priority is $561 million? I understand that there are requirements to contribute to the “rainy day” fund and Water Quality Improvement Fund, but the legislative package is only devoting 50% of the budget surplus to transportation spending.
What else are they going to spend it on? And when they decide to take surplus funds and allocate them to some discretionary purpose, should we expect that the budget requests in subsequent years will not be inflated by the surplus-driven spending in prior years? Soon there will be no surplus under this scheme, and we’ll soon be fighting yet another proposal for tax increases.
If Not Buck Turgidson is right and the Senate is going to hold out for a tax increase this session, which isn’t going to help at all, we can pretty much declare VDOT reform and other important and absolutely necessary initiatives dead for this session. Although the issue will be a very effective baseball bat to wield against the heads of legislators who are lacking in their committment to fiscal discipline and real results in 2007, it’s the voters who will suffer for another year.
Somebody please tell me there’s a real silver lining to this rather ominous looking cloud.
UPDATE: Bearing Drift reports that Senator Chichester is interested in marking up any House proposal to include more “continuous streams of revenue”. I’m too far away from his district to see if there’s a stream of citizens with tar, feathers, torches and farming implements moving towards his house yet, but if there isn’t I imagine there soon will be.
UPDATE 2: The Potomac News, in an editorial poorly disguised as a news article reports that Albo’s tax increase scheme died 15-6 in committee. There’s a tiny silver lining, at least. I’m still hoping for more.
UPDATE 3: The Examiner has more details here.
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