With the 2007 session only a few days away, it is time for legislators to rush forward with legislation to “fix” the flaws in Northern Virginia’s transportation infrastructure.
One idea is for the State to withdraw from the road-building business and turn the entire process over to Virginia counties. In a large urban county like Fairfax, with over one million people and a business district larger than Washington, D.C., this would be a seismic shift — the equivalent of conferring statehood without any of the powers or benefits. Unless Northern Virginia counties can retain their citizens’ tax proceeds (Fairfax alone generates 25%+ of the state’s income tax revenue), there is no reason for them to accept this proposal. Rather it becomes an “unfunded mandate” on a size and scale unparalleled in Virginia history.
Another idea is more benign yet just as useless. It proposes that Virginia issue bonds and fund projects based on its current budget surplus, rather than from a dedicated long-term revenue source. In other words, we’ll start projects now while times are good — and when the surpluses dry up, we will …. (fill in blank with correct answer).
A final idea is to raise revenues with fees targeted at those least likely to have a Richmond lobbyist, i.e. teenagers, pick-up truck owners, and fast drivers without a skilled attorney. While this fee-based approach avoids a general tax increase, it has a number of collateral side effects, nearly all of which are bad. Moreover, it is a Band-Aid approach for a state that under funds transportation by nearly one billion a year.
The bottom line is that these ideas are politically motivated. They are ideas which say — “Hey, I tricked to fix this situation” — without any expectation that it will be fixed. Virginia voters deserve a broader vision.