By Peter Galuszka
Since 1995, Virginia’s politicians have had a ready tool that they love to use as a ruse to build roads without raising taxes: the Public Privatization Transportation Act.
Once considered a nation-beater and major step in the craze of putting private management methods and money in pubic transport projects, the PPTA was intended to supplement the usually road-building process. Money traditionally would be made available by the General Assembly and groups such as the Commonwealth Transportation Board would access construction needs on a regional basis, select projects and dole out funds.
But as skinflint state legislators refuse year after year to raise taxes (the gasoline tax hasn’t been hiked or adjusted for inflation since 1986), money for construction and maintenance just isn’t there. Not to worry, governors still are getting their pet projects funded by consolidating power in the executive branch through the use of the PPTA.
The process is morphing into something that seems more Kremlin than Thomas Jefferson. The PPTA is badly being misused, according to a report funded by the Southern Environmental Law Center. They hired state road expert James J. Regimbal to put together a scathing look at what is becoming a scary phenomenon. He recommends significant PPTA changes this General Assembly season.
(Jim Bacon has already weighed in with an earlier blog posting).
Here for your interest is a piece I did for Style Weekly (Q&A) with Regimbal on the same theme.