Bonds, Roads and the Bay

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine will introduce legislation $250 million in bonds to upgrade 89 municipal sewage treatment plants with the goal of slashing nutrients released into the Chesapeake Bay. Said Kaine in a prepared statement today: “Through this partnership with our local governments, we will be able to accomplish with this $250 million bond package what few have thought possible: we will have the resources to meet the sewage treatment plant discharge requirements of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement.”

House Republicans aren’t real happy about it. In a counter press release, House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, reiterated the Republicans’ support for a half billion dollars in Clean-the-Bay initiatives. What frosts him is the fact that Gov. Kaine is willing to tap the state’s ample debt capacity to upgrade sewage treatment plants — but not roads.

Said Howell: “We are left scratching our heads and wondering why he has selectively chosen to use 21st Century financing tools for this priority but has actively opposed our efforts to take advantage of this proven solution to address transportation.”

Added House Majority Whip M. Kirkland Cox, R-Colonial Heights: “Not less than three months ago, the Governor’s office cynically compared House Republicans’ use of bonding to address a long-term problem to using one credit card to pay off another. Now, he’s applying that same financing tool as part of the solution on Bay cleanup.”

Howell and Cox make a legitimate point. Gov. Kaine and his fellow Democrats don’t have an aversion to using debt, as the Governor has just demonstrated. Their problem is with using debt for transportation as an alternative to raising taxes. Their show of waving their credit cards on the General Assembly floor was nothing more than a cynical photo op for the benefit of a compliant news media.

Personally, I have no philosophical objection to the state issuing long-term debt as long as it can be done while maintaining a AAA bond rating. The reason I oppose issuing debt for roads at this time is that I am not convinced the money will be well spent. The House Republicans have some good ideas for restructuring the state transportation system — but I’d like to see them enacted before the state starts cranking up the spending machine, whether through debt or taxes.

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9 responses to “Bonds, Roads and the Bay”

  1. Eileen Levandoski Avatar
    Eileen Levandoski

    Where can I find these House Republicans’ ideas for restructuring the state transportation system? This is the first I’ve heard of it.

  2. How are they going to haul all that new sludge away to dump on the countryside with out adequate roads?

    After they spread it on the fields, won’t it just leach back into the Bay?

    With my luck, Dominion Power will want to spread the stuff out as mulch to prevent growth on their power line easement – and THEY will get paid for the service.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    EL – It’s not surprising that you’ve not heard anything about Republican proposals to reform VDOT and the CTB. Raising taxes is the only solution that the MSM would discuss.

    Similarly, you’ve probably not heard that several NoVA Democrats voted against tax increases in the recent special session because of the need to fix they system. That’s inconsistent with the MSM’s goals.

    VDOT has no internal cost controls. It wastes money consistently. Shouldn’t Governor Kaine prove, with an audit, that this problem has been fixed before he asks for higher taxes? If not, why not?

    Likewise, the CTB has been identified as funding transportation projects without regard to their impact on improving traffic flows or safety or what return is produced on taxpayers’ investments. In other words, lobbyists control the process and are able to obtain the functional equivalent of earmarks. Didn’t we just toss a number of GOP members of Congress for pork-barrel/earmark politics? If earmarks are wrong for the US, why are they ok for Virginia? If Governor Kaine wants to be on the side of good government, shouldn’t he fix the CTB before he ask for more tax dollars for them to spend? If not, why not?

    Tim Kaine ran for Governor, and probably won many votes, because he promised to fight for changes in our laws that would prohibit rezoning when the local roads could not handle the traffic. A bi-partisan coalition of Delegates introduced a bill, which was blocked in committee. But instead of fighting for this bill, Governor Kaine abandoned it and joined the road-builders side. Why? Shouldn’t the Governor use his political capital to fight for his campaign promise? If not, why not?

  4. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Eileen, Click here to reach the Bacon’s Rebellion archives. Scroll down to the Oct. 9 issue and read “Seventy-five Years.” Then scroll back up to the Oct. 23 issue and read “The Devolution Solution,” and then to November 9 and read “Focused Growth.”

  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Ahhh…. Eileen Levandoskis’ response…. could be troubling to the HD guys…if it represents how a lot of folks view the issue.

    This might be Virginia’s version of Wonks oblivious to those outside of the beltway ….

    The guy in the street doesn’t like higher taxes but what they like even less is politicians that appear to them to be ideologues who refuse to respond to needs.

    I think Kaine is winning… here … and HIS proposed use of surplus funds to clean up the Bay – very cleverly makes the point about how Ad Hoc and diverse any discussions of potential uses of surplus can be.

    The HD guys are advocating – in essence – than an informal policy of 50% of any surplus go to transportation and Kaine is showing just how fragile that concept is… depending on other competing priorities.

    In my view .. it boils down to a “Where’s the BEEF” question to the HD guys…

    If they get politically “framed” as see no evil, hear no evil, etc… hands in the pocket… I think they might actually be in trouble…

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Seems to me that if either side was actually serious about dealing with transportation and land-use issues, they would propose legislation for something like this:

    “Toll Roads May Tie to Land Plans”

    By Tom Palmer
    The Ledger

    BARTOW – Proposals to slice through the region with two new toll roads could offer the first-ever opportunity to link land planning and road planning, Pat Steed told the Central Florida Regional Planning Council on Wednesday.

    Land-use planning and road planning have never come together before,” said Steed, the council’s executive director and a longtime transportation planner.

    The Heartland Coast-to-Coast is a 150-mile east-west toll road between Port Manatee and Interstate 95. Its current estimated price tag is $4 billion.

    The Heartland Parkway is a 110-mile toll road running from State Road 80 near Fort Myers to Interstate 4 near Kissimmee. Its estimated cost is $3 billion.

    Either road – if they’re built – is expected to influence development patterns along its route.

    Steed and Richmond said one of the issues is to determine whether local residents ultimately want the road and whether it fits with their regional vision.

    rest of article at:

    Regional Planning with respect to land-use and transportation!

    What a CONCEPT!

    Apparently it’s beyond the thinking of both Bill Howell and Tim Kaine…. too bad…

  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Other interesting legislation going into the hopper down in Richmond:

    “Secondary highway maintenance payments to Henrico County.� Beginning with the fiscal year starting July 1, 2007, increases to $7,201 per lane-mile the secondary highway maintenance payments made to Henrico County. The increase would fix the secondary highway maintenance base payments to Henrico County at the same level as such payments to Arlington County.”

    this strikes me as odd in a couple of respects.

    First, obviously is why the maintenance payments are different in the first place
    Second, why does it take legislation to change it?

    and third – Isn’t this what is essentially being advocated on a statewide basis by some folks, including myself and also what JLARC advocated.

    If Henrico can do this… why not other counties?

    .. and if Henrico is doing this – does this mean that they are more fully responsible for transportation and land-use decisions?

    and again.. same hammer coming down again.. where is the HD and Kaine on their specific reform proposals and why isn’t this one of them on the table?

  8. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    more fodder:

    n a brief speech delivered on Friday, Dec. 8, [Sen] Houck referred to Northern Virginia as “the economic engine that is driving this state,” and said a failure to solve the [transportation] issue would hurt Virginians at the local level.

    “The General Assembly is right on the cusp of undermining a very strong state economy by not addressing our transportation needs,”
    The senator in turn tied them to transportation, claiming that revenues from the port at Hampton Roads represented a piece of Culpeper’s funds.

    It SURE would be useful for some solid numbers to be provided to back up the claims that NoVa and HR are, in fact, providing funds to other jurisdictions….

    Such evidence… could well engender a more cooperative attitude with regard to those localities external to NoVa and HR.

  9. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Larry, Henrico and Arlington are the two counties that opted out of the 30s-era transportation reforms. They have built and maintained their road systems ever since. It’s no accident that their their transportation systems work far better than those of their neighbors.

    Arlington is living proof that population density need not be equated with traffic congestion. The major congestion problems in Arlington occur in the regional arterials that feed NoVa workers to D.C. jobs. Otherwise, you don’t hear Arlingtonians complain about congestion.

    Henrico did a good job of aligning transportation and land use, too — at least until it created the travesty around the Short Pump interchange on Interstate 64. The county has a grid of parkways that keep traffic moving reasonably well, considering the disconnected, low-density patterns of development.

    It would be interesting to compare Levels of Service in Arlington and Henrico with neighboring jurisdictions.

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