Better late than never. Last June Ken Cuccinelli claimed that he would present his transportation plan “in the coming weeks”. Four months later he delivered on that promise. You can read his transportation plan here.
Fun with numbers. On the surface, Cuccinelli’s plan seems to be substantial. He wants to create a database of congestion metrics to throw some light on road building decisions. He wants to devolve secondary roads to localities. He wants to eliminate redundant transportation authorities. It all sounds so good until you read the fine print. He only wants to devolve roads to counties with 100,000 or more people. There are nine such counties in Virginia – Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun, Chesterfield, Henrico, Arlington, Stafford, Spotsylvania and Hanover. Of these nine counties two already maintain their own secondary roads (Arlington and Henrico). So, Cuccinelli’s revolutionary transportation plan only applies to seven counties.
Or, maybe not. Cuccinelli’s plan says, “Counties at the top of the list would be Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun, and Chesterfield.”. It’s unclear why Stafford, Spotsylvania and Hanover counties weren’t included on Ken’s short list. It’s equally unclear why low population cities in Virginia can maintain their own roads but counties with fewer than 100,000 people cannot.
Republicans shouldn’t do the moonwalk. Cuccinelli might appear to be going forward with this plan but is he really moving in reverse? His plan states, “The Commonwealth will send counties funds equal to those currently used for secondary roads through block grants and allow those counties to raise additional funds if needed on their own.” Is that the amount of money under the McDonnell transportation plan or under the old Imperial Clown Show in Richmond’s “frozen gas tax plan”? One assumes the latter. Yet, Cuccinelli isn’t done with his trickery. ”My administration will replace the current city-county formula with a new formula based on the results of the matrix system identified above that would take into account road usage and economic development.” The “matrix system” is Cuccinelli’s congestion database. Or is it a congestion database? When he first described the database in his plan it was all about congestion. Now, several paragraphs later, it also includes the fuzzy math of economic development. So, the seven
(or is it four?) counties to which this plan applies might (or might not) get the same amount they have been getting. We’ll all have to wait until Cuccinelli is elected and the new city-county funding formula is determined to find out.
The good, the bad and the ugly. It’s mostly bad and ugly. First, the good. A public database of congestion would be a useful transparency tool. Reducing the bewildering number of transportation authorities would also be helpful. Now, the bad and ugly. Cuccinelli’s plan seems to roll back the McDonnell transportation funding plan. Yet it was the frozen gas tax (in cents per gallon) that caused the funding problem in the first place. Cooch’s plan also still funnels the tax money for secondary roads through Richmond. Given what we’ve seen of Star Scientific, CONSOL Energy, the tobacco indemnification fund and Orion Air – that’s not a good idea. If the counties are to manage the secondary roads then the taxes should go straight to the counties. What’s raised in the county for transportation stays in the county for transportation. Why should the proven crooks in Richmond handle the money? Why are the vast majority of Virginia counties exempt from this plan? The plan should apply to all counties or no counties. If certain counties don’t want to raise money for secondary roads they should stop building secondary roads.
Barack Hussein Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli’s transportation plan smells like another wealth redistribution scheme. You know, the kind of scheme that Obama likes so much. I suspect that Cuccinelli wants to short change a few large counties in order to subsidize a lot of small counties. Why? Because the people in the small rural counties will vote for Cuccinelli while the people in the large urban counties won’t. And buying votes with other people’s money is how The Cooch and Obama roll. The difference, of course, is that Obama is basically honest about his goals while Cuccinelli pretends to be a small government conservative.
Making it work. If Cuccinelli wants to devolve management of secondary roads to the counties, fine. The state should cut its budget by 5 – 10% and all state taxes should be reduced by 5 – 10%. Each county should determine how it’s going to pay for its secondary roads. Then, each county ought to impose whatever tax approach they find appropriate to fund those secondary roads. Richmond should butt out of the matter altogether. Of course, gift-taking career politicians like Ken Cuccinelli hate to butt out of anything. After all, misdirecting the state’s finances is a great way to say “thank you” to all those gift giving businessmen.
Correction: The Cuccinelli plan describes a two-tiered system whereby counties with over 250,000 people would be the first to be converted followed by counties with 100,000 – 250,000 people. The article has been updated to reflect this.
– D.J. Rippert