by James A. Bacon

When push comes to shove, are Virginia’s Republicans fiscal conservatives first or culture warriors first? We found out yesterday when the Senate Republicans and Democrats reached agreement to pass a state budget.

Republicans succeeded in batting down a $3 million Democrat-inspired provision for the state to pay for ultrasounds required of women seeking abortions under a bill that Governor Bob McDonnell recently signed into law. But they let stand a measure authorizing the state to borrow another $300 million to offset the cost of the Rail-to-Dulles heavy rail project. (See “Kissing the Pig.”)

Congratulations, guys, you clawed back an entire one percent of the dollars you approved to bail out the most expensive public works project in Virginia history. And you acceded to the giveaway without demanding any more transparency or accountability of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), the entity empowered with managing the project. Bottom line: You’ve abdicated your fundamental responsibilities as guardians of the public purse — all for what? A purely symbolic victory in the abortion wars.

In the interest of balance, I could accuse Virginia’s Democrats of fiscal hit and run as well. After all, it’s at their insistence that the additional $300 million bail-out funds, over and above $150 million previously approved, were inserted in the budget. But, then, that’s just Democrats being Democrats. We all know they love spending other peoples’ money. Republicans profess not to.

According to the Times-Dispatch, the Dems sought $3 million in state funding to cover the cost of the imaging procedures for low-income women. The Dems had a culture war issue that was playing well in the polls, and they weren’t about to let go. Moreover, given the fact that the state was now mandating the ultrasound, one could make a not unreasonable argument that the state should offset the cost for women who lacked insurance.  But for reasons that are unfathomable to me — it’s not as if state funds would be used for actual abortions — the Rs could not abide this fiscally negligible measure and voted it down in a party-line vote.

Yet the ongoing drama over Phase 2 of the Rail-to-Dulles project elicited only a snore. The Senate measure would borrow $300 million to defray interest costs on the project debt, thus reducing pressure to raise tolls on the Dulles Toll Road, the source of more than half of the estimated $2. 8 billion roject’s funding.

This is the same MWAA that has given preferential treatment to bidders using Project Labor Agreements, disadvantaging open-shop (non-union) enterprises… the same MWAA that backed off from an expensive underground station at Dulles airport only after setting off a political backlash in Northern Virginia… the same MWAA whose board is comprised of a majority of non-Virginians… the same MWAA that is exempt from Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act and is not subject to state audit. Rather than leverage that additional $300 million to make MWAA more accountable, the Senate is handing over the money with no conditions.

The only hope for sanity to prevail is for House of Delegates representatives to axe the bail-out in the budget reconciliation process. Thankfully, the money-for-ultrasounds issue is off the table. Perhaps the House negotiators will be able to focus on where the real money is.

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  1. But for reasons that are unfathomable to me — it’s not as if state funds would be used for actual abortions — the Rs could not abide this fiscally negligible measure and voted it down in a party-line vote.


    Party line vote.
    Not invented here.
    And GFY stands for Governemtn Fiscal Year.

    What is there to fathom?

  2. you mean that the Va General Assembly MANDATED that people purchase health care services?

    OMG! Does the Cooch know about this outrage?

  3. DJRippert Avatar

    Good to see Jim Bacon move from the world of political commentary to the world of humorous fictional writing!

    Jim wants to describe the funding of a project that hasn’t even started yet as a “bail out”. Typical conservative culture war commentary. Yes, Jim – funding Metro is just like saving the banks that were “too big to fail” from self imposed bankruptcy. Holy cow.

    Jim is also fascinated that the governing board of a multi-jurisdictional transportation system does not have a majority of Virginians. How very Richmond of him. God knows the world would be a better place if only it was run by Virginians. Or, better yet, run exclusively by residents of Richmond. Jim ignores the fact that the MWAA commissioners he most dislikes were all appointed by the former governor of Virginia and Richmond resident, Tim Kaine. I am always amazed at the inbred attitude of people hailing from Richmond.

    In the end analysis, Jim’s skin flint, Luddite attitude is a prime example of why Richmond has been almost entirely surpassed by other southern cities like Charlotte and Atlanta. The simple and sad fact is that the “Richmond attitude” favors the preservation of the past over progress into the future. The observable lack of progress in Richmond compared to other, similar cities is something that is apparently invisible to Jim.

    Jim – the world doesn’t end at the outer lane of 295. You can go outside of the Henrico County border without falling off the edge of the Earth. I’d seriously suggest that you look outside of Virginia and far outside of Richmond for examples of how thriving American cities work. All you’ll find in Richmond is the “before picture” of Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta, Jacksonville or even Greenville, SC. You really should stop exporting the “Richmond attitude” to other locales.

    Mass transit, including heavy rail, is a fact of life in modern cities even if it hasn’t reached Richmond yet.

    Multi-jurisdictional governance is a fact of life in cities that span jurisdictions – from New York to Philadelphia to Chicago. This is true even though Richmond is completely cocooned within the Commonwealth of Virginia.

    Investing in modern infrastructure is how modern cities build for the future from Beijing to Baltimore. The fact that Richmond can’t figure that out is a flaw of governance in Richmond, not a benefit of an “all Virginian” governance structure.

    If you guys in Richmond want to live in the past, feel free to do so, but stop demanding that everybody else follow suit.

  4. We have been tricked. There is a financial audit going on (since March 15, 2012) that for some VERY STRANGE reason has not been reported by the news media in all the time since it began. Kudos to Tax Pig for getting this story out. Bronx Cheer to the news media for looking the other way.

    Audit Initiated of Phase 2 of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project
    March 15, 2012
    Project ID: 12M3001M00

    Full PDF Document:

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