Dudes, the General Assembly Won’t Make It Any Better the Second Time Around

The Hampton Roads Transportation Authority approved yesterday an array of new regional taxes designed to raise some $175 million a year, but delayed implementation to give the General Assembly time to come up with a financing package that, in the words of James City County Board Chairman John J. McGlennon, “is spread more evenly among a broader section of the public.”

“The mix of fees was not right and we hope to rationalize them,” McGlennon said at the Authority meeting in Chesapeake, reports Tom Holden with the Virginian-Pilot.

Good luck. The General Assembly isn’t going to do any better a second time around. The one logical solution — devise a system in which the people who pay for transportation improvements are the same as those who use and/or benefit from them — is the one solution that politicians and citizen activists of all stripes seem to avoid at all costs. People want the road improvements, they just want someone else to pay for them. However, it is impossible for the General Assembly to tax people to the tune of $175 million a year without anyone noticing.

The most promising development to come out of the HRTA meeting yesterday — and one totally overlooked by the accounts in the Virginian-Pilot, Daily-Press and Associated Press — is that the Authority may adopt a congestion-pricing strategy. Unfortunately, I have no details — know no more than what Reid Greenbaum reported in his comments in yesterday’s post, “Here, Take My Lint” — so I cannot elaborate at this time.

But speaking in generalities, as long as the Authority is imposing new tolls to pay for projects, it might as well utilize supply-and-demand principles to ration scarce highway capacity. A willingness to consider congestion pricing represents a huge step forward in regional thinking.

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2 responses to “Dudes, the General Assembly Won’t Make It Any Better the Second Time Around”

  1. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    Actually Al Saferstein, the VBTA Budget chair made an interesting observation this week. He raised the point in his e-blast that should the General Assembly & Gov. Kaine make the ‘bad driver fees’ apply to everyone ticketed in Virginia, and not just those that live in Virignia, BILLIONS MORE is “fee” money will pout into the state – especially Virginia Beach where we have over 3 million out of state tourists DRIVE to visit each summer.

    Should the General Assembly factor in this unexpected “revenue” from out of state drivers, perhaps other funding strategies, such as the $ 0.40 cents per $100 of sale value “Grantor’s Tax” all home SELLERS are now on the hook to pay could be replaced with out of state ‘bad driver’ fines?

    Due to the law suit my friends files challenging the Constitutionality on many grounds, one being a viloation of the 14th amendment “equal protection” clause of the U.S. Constitution, we may have caused the rest of the divers to help pay for the state (and port) economic development highways for our region, as detailed within HB 3202.

    This is an interesting thought.

    What I am hearing is a shift towards a regional 10 cent gas tax hike instead.

    This would replace the Grantor’s tax.

    What I’d like to see is a “wind fall profit tax” – that being that $ 0.50 cents per $100.00 of commission real estate agents make on the sale of residential and commercial property is used to help pay for transportation infrastucture.

    The HRACRE (Hampton Roads Association of Commercial Real Estate) has been lobbying hard for HB 3202 – since THEY want all these new taxes, fees, and tools – then THEY should be stepping up to the plate to pay for the pet projects THEY want built.

    Note: VBTA = Virginia Beach Taxpayer’s Alliance.

  2. Groveton Avatar


    Thank you for posting a constructive comment on this site. A “windfall profits” tax on real estate agents who are capitalizing on skyrocketing housing prices? That has some merit. However, I’d make a couple of additions to your list – mortgauge bankers and developers. The mortguague bankers could be offered a time sensitive deal like “pay your windfall tax by Dec. 1” and we’ll agree to waive fraud prosecution for the sub-prime mortgauges you have been selling. Developers are a tougher problem. They need more than government absolution. Maybe a group of religious leaders could get together and promise to pray for the souls of all developers who pay their windfall tax by Dec. 1. Simply waiving prosecution is not strong enough medicine for developers. They need divine forgiveness for their role in this fiasco.

    Also Jim –

    You keep saying that everybody wants somebody else to pay for what they need. You are probably right about that. However, I’d like to hear you stipulate (for the record):

    1. Northern Virginia (among others) has been paying for others educational costs since the Wilder administration implemented the SOL funding transfer scheme. I believe that the state-wide SOLs have risen steadily since that time but I never hear you vent your rage at the need to end that instance of “one group of people paying for another group’s needs”. Does your philosophy extend to want everybody to pay their own way or just the people you perceive as living in wealthy areas?

    2. The highway funding allocation procededure implemented in the early 1980s was designed to fund rural roads at the expense of urban and urbanizing roads. For almost 27 years this example of one group paying for another group’s needs has continued. Does your sense of fairness and egalitarianism extend to repealing this subsidy and having those that have benefitted pay back those who were robbed?

    3. In 2003 (the last year for which I have data) the acceptance rate of students into the University of Virginia for students from Northern Virginia was 47%. The overall acceptance rate for the rest of Virginia was 54%. This was true despite the fact that the students from NoVa scored consistently and notably higher on the national standardized tests (e.g. SAT). Does your sense of fairness require that the GA insist that NoVa students be differentially accepted into UVA in order to make up for the taxpayers of NOVA paying for somebody else’s costs (i.e. the tuitions for those from outside NoVa who were accepted with lesser ceredentials)?

    4. Several localities in Southern Virginia have substantially lowered their real estate tax rates despite being recipients of state-wide subsidies. This allowed their residents to keep more money in their pockets while taking money from other people in the state. This was especially the case after the sales tax hike that was supposedly going to benefit education. In your quest for fairness would you require those localities to restore their tax rates to the old levels in order to preserve fairness?

    I am guessing that you have some excuse for all these issues. I frankly believe the primary goal of your arguments is to construct a select set of positions with the end goal of further soaking the supposedly rich residents of Northern Virginia and Tidewater.

    However, before you finalize the intentional illogic of your arguments I’d like to make you an offer. I’d like to invite you to be my guest in Northern Virginia for a tour of some of the places in Fairfax County where the people are (perhaps) not so rich as you think.

    First, we’ll head to Herndon where it was just announced that the Day Laborer Center will not get any more funding. You can tell the people there how reasonable the subsidy is. However, you may want to brush up on your Spanish and your Kung Fu first.

    Then, we’ll walk past my old home on Huntington Avenue. You can stop at the local shops and explain why the residents of Huntington Avenue should pay tolls because they are really rich and it’s unfair for the state to let Fairfax County keep the taxes these folks pay beacause they are so rich.

    Then we’ll hit the trailer parks just East of Rt 1 down by Mt. Vernon. If you don’t own a gun you might be well advised to borrow one of Mr. Patrick’s for this excursion. Let the people living in the rusted trailers know how rich they are and how fair it is for them to see their tax dollars transferred to southern Virginia while you propose toll roads on Rt 1.

    Finally, we’ll take a relaxing stroll through Gum Springs. I’ll drive. This is not the place for Confererate Flag bumper stickers. From time to time I’ll stop so that you can lecture the people from Gum Springs about the fairness of them sending their tax dollars to pay for education in the lily white counties of Southwerstern Virginia where the long time Virginia people have lived for 17 generations. They’ll explain how long their families have lived in Gum Springs. Of course, you’ll have to decided whether to start counting generations of Virginians when their families came to the US or when they were freed as part of George Washington’s will.

    Jim – please send me a few dates that will work for you regarding this tour.

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