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.There are currently no comments highlighted.