Yesterday, both branches of the General Assembly voted in favor of HB 3202, which was Speaker Howell’s “Republican compromise” regarding transportation.
The value of the bill is that it contains specific funds for Northern Virginia projects, including METRO and VRE. The drawback is that the new revenue earmarked is largely chimerical: it either depends on local enactment or a future state surplus.
In regard to a local tax increase, all County Boards are facing re-election in November 2007. The chances of them raising taxes or creating a new tax prior to that time are zilch. Two County Boards, Prince William and Loudoun, have already stated they will not do it.
Furthermore, local Boards set their tax rates during the spring budget cycle. That will come and go before HB 3202 becomes law (if it becomes law) on July 1st, which means that the issue will inevitably be kicked over to 2008.
In regard to the use of a general fund surplus, that is a meaningless gesture. Any future Assembly can pass new laws that override such commitments.
Issuing bonds based on “future surpluses” is faulty if not fraudulent. It smacks of the Assembly’s 2000 Virginia Transportation Act which pledged “billions” of future revenue for road projects. When our economy cooled, the Act was not worth the paper it was printed on.
HB 3202 is now before the Governor Kaine who has the power to veto or amend it. In either case, the issue will be before the voters in the fall elections to pass judgment.