Another Day, Another Diatribe

While the Roanoke Times editorial page displayed signs of thinking outside the box this morning (see previous post, “Roanoke Roundabouts”), the same cannot be said of the Newport News Daily Press, which is stuck in a rut: raging against its favorite target, House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, on the topic of its favorite excuse for raising taxes, transportation.

Howell, states the Daily Press editorial writer: “has held his Republican majority in the House of Delegates together, refused to consider new revenue sources, thumbed his nose at the governor’s entreaties and, now, the state Senate may very well throw in the towel and pass a budget that includes meager new transportation support.”

Let’s deconstruct that statement.

“Refused to consider new revenue sources...” Wrong, just plain wrong. Howell has not “refused to consider new revenue sources” — he’s merely refused to consider the revenue sources — new taxes — that the Daily Press is so enamored of. Howell has backed the idea of public private partnerships that issue bonds backed by tolls. He has backed the idea of privatizing revenue-generating pieces of the transportation system to raise funds to be invested elsewhere. He has backed raising fines on “traffic abusers” and devoting the proceeds to transportation. He has carved out dedicated revenue streams from the General Fund to back the issurance of bonds. And that list doesn’t include using the state surplus in the next biennial budget, like the last, for transportation.

(There are legitimate grounds for criticizing Howell’s approach to transportation, but not for reasons that the Daily Press would recognize. The Speaker, like the state senators whose fiscally outrageous spending plans he opposes, seems stuck in the mindset that the way to address traffic congestion is to match every increase in Vehicle Miles Traveled with an expansion of capacity. Howell would be well advised to pay more attention to the need for fundamental land use reforms, not the tinkering-on-the-edge reforms that have come out of this year’s session, and other strategies for moderating the relentless increase in travel demand.)

thumbed his nose at the Governor’s entreaties…” If that characterization is apt, then it is fair to say that the Governor has “thumbed his nose” at Howell’s entreaties as well. I haven’t noticed any indication yet that the Governor is any more willing to compromise on transportation funding than the House is.

“the senate may very well throw in the towel and pass a budget that includes meager new transportation support…” Throw in the towel? That’s an interesting description for the Senate’s recognition that it should stop holding a figurative gun to Howell’s head by embedding the 2007-2008 budget with tax increases. Rest assured, had Howell tried a similar strong-armed legislative tactic in the absence of a consensus, the Daily Press would be crying bloody murder.

Note to the Daily Press: The transportation debate has left you in the dust. Virginia’s Business-As-Usual transportation policy is coming under wider and wider assault. You’re like the last Tyrannosaurus bellowing about the meteor strike while the mammals get on with taking over.

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9 responses to “Another Day, Another Diatribe”

  1. Virginia Centrist Avatar
    Virginia Centrist

    “he’s merely refused to consider the revenue sources — new taxes — that the Daily Press is so enamored of”

    You give Howell too much credit…

    What’s the difference between a hike in abuser fees and a tax increase on a driving related product (gas or titles or whatever)? Very little…it’s just a sneakier way to do it.

  2. Transportation Relief Avatar
    Transportation Relief

    Speaker Howell is all that stands between me and the people of Virginia. Why won’t he let me out of committee so the full House can vote?

    /s/The Senate Transportation Plan

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    As I snaked my way up I-64 coming out of Hampton Roads today, with no obvious reason for the backups other than sheer congestion, dreams of all the wonderful alternatives the looney left and reckless right have in store for me kept me going (not.) Just build another lane. Now.

  4. kingfish Avatar

    Anon- Speaker Howell and friends do not care how much time, money and fuel you waste sitting on I-64 so long as they can go back home, beat their chests and say they did not raise taxes.
    VC- right on the money. When the GOP was in the minority, every tuition increase at colleges was referred to as a tax increase on families; every fee increase was a tax by another name. Now, faced with the responsibility of actually governing, they play the same game that they used to complain about. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

  5. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Jim: I thought about posting this after I choked on my mornging coffee yesterday. But I thought, “Nah, it’ll get boring showing the errors of the DP too often – even if they write drivel every day.” So, thanks for the entree.

    I loved DP’s line, “The surplus is largely a cooked commodity anyway, the product of ignoring upcoming demands – education, Medicaid, health care, etc. – that will continuously drawn down state funds for decades to come.”

    Consider their assumptions.

    They assume that demands for spending will continue to grow. Because they have no vision for reforms, for changes, for alternatives.

    They assume that revenues won’t grow as fast or faster than spending. Because they have no concept of how capital is created, how tax cuts increase revenue and how tax hikes kill jobs and flatten revenue.

    TR: Speaker Howell stands for the People of Virginia. The Senate’s Transportation Relief is Transportation Retreads with old tax scams.

    The Speaker can’t possibly be preventing a vote by himself. If that were so, certainly a courageous RINO would speak up publically and demand the right to vote.

    Anon and Kingfish: The Republicans in the State Senate could have proposed widening I-64 with a wedge of transportation money – in a private public partnership or with tolls or both etc any day since 1999. But, they haven’t because they are stuck on stupid trying to pay for the widening with a sales tax hike. Also, you may recall the 15 year odyssey of widening I-64 from the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel to Jefferson Ave – and the VDOT calvacade of mistakes and over runs. Recall, too, the debacle on expanding the interchange at I-64/Mercury Blvd for how not to fix the roads -that is Sen. Marty Williams’ baby.

  6. kingfish Avatar

    JAB- I certainly do remember the traffic nightamre on I-64 caused by interminable construction. Putting tolls on that road would only increase the congestionproblem as traffic comes to a halt to throw a quarter in a basket. That’s not the answer.
    You seem to be a student of history and I respectfully suggest you consider the fate of other great powers that neglected their infrastructure- or sold them as assets to foreigners. When Saudis or Japanese own our roads, it cannot be a good thing.

  7. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Kingfish: The fast lanes on the Coleman Bridge work just fine. Quarters are only one way to do tolls.

    The $800 million the House offers for additional transportation spending in this biennium isn’t ‘neglect’.

    Reforming VDOT isn’t neglect either.

    The scare stories of foreign investment from the 70s – for farms, industry, ports, banks, etc. etc – haven’t worked out. Foreign investment built our West after the War of Northern Aggression. More capital is a good thing.

  8. kingfish Avatar

    JAB- I am in favor of continuing the reforms at VDOT initiated under Mr. Shucet during the Warner Administration. Any rational person would have to conclude that they have improved over the last 4 years but that they still have a ways to go.
    And I am sorry about the “meet the new boss” stuff earlier. It’s not fair to the old bosses, who at least got budgets out on time. So we have replaced arrogant, self-important competents with arrogant, self-important incompetents.

  9. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Kingfish: If you mean the arrogant,self-important incompetents are the RINOs in the Virginia Senate, you’ll brook no argument from me.

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