Odds and ends from this morning’s meeting of the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB):
Sequestration is a non-event… for transportation. Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton told CTB members that federal transportation payments to Virginia should be insulated from sequestration should Congress fail to reach a budget compromise by January 1. Federal transportation dollars are allocated by formula, and they aren’t subject to sequestration cuts, he said, although he added that anything is possible if Congress starts casting around for new sources of money. The sequestration-impact analysis inside the McDonnell administration is focused mainly on the impact on the General Fund.
Inter-regional subsidies… Bacon’s Rebellion has reported analysis by the Richmond Metropolitan Transportation Organization showing that Northern Virginia gets a disproportionate share of transportation funding. One might think that Connaughton, a former chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, would see things differently. But apparently he doesn’t. As he said in passing during the meeting, “The rest of the state subsidizes Northern Virginia.”
Bragging about borrowing… Connaughton tossed out another stray comment during the meeting: “Virginia is the largest recipient of TIFIA loans in the country.” The low-interest federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loans cut interest costs on Virginia transportation projects by tens of millions of dollars, and the competition for them is fierce. Virginia’s success in snagging the loans, said the transportation secretary, is testimony to the soundness of the project financing proposes the state has submitted to the federal government.
Transportation revenue up… for now. Commonwealth Transportation Fund revenues are up 6.3% so far this year, way ahead of the 2.2% forecast. But Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) officials don’t believe the revenue surge has staying power. Most of the increase comes from a strong performance by the volatile sales tax on automobile sales. The steadier motor fuels tax is up only 2%, slightly less than the 2.2% forecast. Said Virginia Highway Commissioner Greg Whirley: “We expect spending to actually decline over the next six years.”
There was more, which I’ll try to get to it in future articles.