Highway Robbery

The center-left Commonwealth Institute still has big reservations about the General Assembly’s transportation-funding package as outlined in a new white paper, “Destination Unknown: Navigating Virginia’ New Transportation Funding Package – and Potential Potholes.”

Some of the concerns are practical. One major funding component of the plan requires Congressional action, which may or may not be forthcoming, and the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads funding pieces will face legal challenges.

But Michael Cassidy and Sarah Okos raise two intertwined issues of substance:

  • The tax increases would require low- and moderate-income Virginians to pay a bigger share of their earnings for transportation than wealthier households.
  • The legislation shifts the cost of paying for maintenance and highway improvements from drivers, who benefit from the roads, to the general population. According to CI’s calculations, less than 10% of the new revenues are driving-related.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul… Spending other peoples’ money… Describe it how you will, it astounds me that self-styled conservatives could vote for this wealth-transfer scheme. I guess it all depends upon which way the wealth transfer is flowing. Elephant Clan legislators must be able to swallow the plan because they’re soaking urban, Donkey Clan constituents, who tend not to drive as much, in order to benefit their Elephant Clan constituents, who are concentrated in rural areas and suburbs where residents drive more.

I don’t pretend to understand the Donkey Clan legislators at all. I guess they just never saw a tax increase they didn’t like — even if it clobbers their constituents.


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7 responses to “Highway Robbery”

  1. DJRippert Avatar

    You gotta love reading what the fringe groups write. It doesn’t matter whether they are “right fringe” or “left fringe”.

    Life is simple, Jimbo: For 27 years the combined pack of idiots we call a state legislature was unwilling to acknowledge the existence of inflation. While 48 other states accepted the reality of inflation and raised their gas tax, Virginia’s political class sat on their hands and watched the problem get worse by the year. Either of two options would have solved the problem. First and easier – index the gas tax to inflation. Often proposed, always defeated. Second, de-evolve transportation to a regional level and appoint an elected regional transportation body to decide how to raise money for the region and what to build in the region. The oligopoly that runs Virginia (see: Star Scientific) wanted nothing to do with a dilution of Dillon’s Rule power.

    So, nothing happened.

    Along came a man who I’d estimate personally owns two thirds of all the IQ points in the Republican Party of Virginia – Bob McDonnell. He could see that the RPV was following the national Republican Party down the tubes. NoVa was all but lost and Tidewater was next. The “party of no” needed to pick a big state-wide problem and address it. McDonnell wisely chose transportation funding. Unfortunately for Virginia, McDonnell isn’t a dictator or he would have ignored the blithering idiots on both fringes and just indexed the gas tax to inflation. Instead, he had to first try to use oil exploration revenue (kiboshed after the BP fiasco), then try to sell the state’s liquor retailing business which the state shouldn’t own (kiboshed by the usual pack of idiots). Finally, he had no choice but to raise taxes to reflect the reality of inflation.

    At this point, he had to roll around with the pigs of the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond. And you know what they say … when you roll around with pigs you get up with mud. The “we t’aint payin’ fer no NoVer roads” crew wasn’t going to accept an indexing of the gas tax. Tidewater wasn’t going to accept confiscatory tolls. NoVa didn’t really care how he raised the money as long as the money got raised.

    So, he put together a coalition that got just enough of the middle (from both parties) in agreement that he got his transportation plan passed. The contards still don’t accept inflation as a reality. The libtards fret that this is a wasted opportunity for more Obamaesque wealth transfer. However, those of us in the middle are just glad somebody finally got something done.

    Repeat after me, Jim … inflation exists, inflation exists, inflation exists. I can almost understand a denial of climate change but inflation? C’mon!

  2. Repeat after me, Don… Jim believes in adjusting the gas tax for inflation, Jim believes in adjusting the gas tax for inflation…

    But Jim also believes that a lot of the new money raised will be wasted on projects of marginal value. Once the General Assembly enacts the new tax system, nothing else will change. Everyone will go back to sleep until we discover 10 years from now that there’s still not enough money.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Chap Petersen repeatedly put forth legislation to adjust the gas tax for inflation. It was killed by your friends in the RPV. What options were left? Propose the same thing again and hope for a different outcome?

      Yes, money will be wasted. It will be sloshed and slopped around like over-filled buckets of common river water.

      That’s the best we’re going to get from The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond.

      Why would you expect better?

      This is the state with the least competitive legislative elections in the US. Single term governors come and go every four years but there are no term limits on the Clown Show. Gifts to family members don’t have to be reported. Campaign donations are unlimited. It’s the hardest state in America to get on the ballot – all but guaranteeing a lack of independent candidates. It’s the state with the fifth worst example of gerrymandering. There is no ethics committee or watchdog group. Elections are held off-year to ensure low voter turnout. Representation on the Commonwealth Transportation Board hasn’t been adjusted for population changes since 1938. Members of the General Assembly directly elect the judiciary even if they are lawyers who will try cases in front of the judges they elect. JLARC freely admits that it doesn’t know if company specific tax breaks are effective yet they are passed every year and never have a sunset date.

      Jim, against this background – what did you realistically hope would happen?

      The state is utterly corrupt. McDonnell did the best he could do.

  3. There was strong recognition an increase in the gas tax was unacceptable to most people, most especially when gas is more than $3.50 per gallon. Moreover, with higher mileage vehicles and people driving less, the gas tax is not a reliable source of funding. Pushing gas prices over $4 to $5 per gallon is a non-starter. Other sources of income needed to be found. Had I been in the General Assembly, I would have held my nose and voted “yes.”

    Will traffic flow improve? Hell No!!! Unless one controls demand, supply will never catch up. We will continue to build things that don’t do anything to fix congestion — e.g., the Outer Beltway. We cannot afford or people will not tolerate building road capacity sufficient to handle peak demand in NoVA. We also need major reforms of the transportation funding process.

    We should get better maintenance for the added taxes. That’s incremental progress.

  4. I think moving the tax from fuel to sales was a paradigm shift no matter the other fetid issues.

    The parallels with ObamaCare are delicious. Both came about because the right wing refused to deal with realities so in both cases what we get is an aardvark crossed with a platypus!

    the silver lining is that the folks who believe we should have more rail and transit are now going to have a powerful weapon. In the old days, you could just kick sand in their face by reminding them that only “real” auto-driving folks paid for roads – not the slackers who wanted rail and transit!

    Of course the irony of McDonnell who stomped Deeds over increasing the gas tax is also quite rich… the GOP prove they are just as big govt as Dems but worse – they’re hypocrites. At least the Dems are honest about their taxing proclivities.

  5. for all the hue and cry over the tax hike, the truth of the matter is that
    new roads are damned expensive now days and if you look at the total amount of new revenues and then spread them proportionally across the state, it’s not going to buy many new roads.

    Maybe a billion a year additional and on a per capita basis that breaks out to about 125.00 per person.

    so take a place like NoVa with 2 million people – it’s share might be 250 million.

    it’s not chump change for sure but it ain’t going to build many miles of new road either.

    if that money were going to go for a road like Md’s ICC – it would pay for 2.5 miles of it.

    at 18 miles, it would take 7 years of the new additional funding to pay for it.

    it will certainly help if it is spent wisely and not squandered on some pork like a western belt…. but it’s not going to transform the congestion situation in any major way.

    the other thing mentioned before. Now that transportation is known to be funded in part by the sales tax, in places like Northern Va, the proponents of transit are going to be able to much more easily identify how much the area generates in sales tax for transportation – and …claim it for non-road transportation – rightly arguing that people who do not own cars or drive are entitled to their taxes to be spent on mobility for them also.

    so perhaps, unwittingly, McDonnell and Connaughton have changed the dynamics of mobility in Virginia from a road-centric view to one that acknowledges that roads are only part of the overall mobility need.

  6. Breckinridge Avatar

    “The tax increases would require low- and moderate-income Virginians to pay a bigger share of their earnings for transportation than wealthier households.”

    As usual, Cassidy gets away with the assumption we are all idiots, which of course is true of his supporters and the MSM. I mean, DUUUUUH. Everything in life takes a larger share of the income of low and middle income people than it does of rich people. Hence the joy of being rich.

    Oh wait, I guess food doesn’t take a larger portion if you get food stamps (sorry, SNAP! Food stamps is political incorrrect.) Housing doesn’t take a larger portion if you have a subsidy. So sorry Cassidy, I’m fine with this.

    Fuel taxes, tolls and registration fees (user fees all) will remain the major source of trasnportation revenue for a long time to come. But the sales tax portion will grow. Done. On the books. Actually, we settled that argument in 1986 with the Baliles package.

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