Insults and Budgeting

While Jim flees to the friendlier confines of the Free Republic of Wyoming (rated a B- in the Pew survey), here in A- land, the grandees are immersed in the spitball portion of the budget competition, trading barbs and preaching doom over differences that are generally much smaller than they appear.

But out of this gob-soaked mess arises a proposal from the head Saslaw-crat regarding a way out of the transportation road funding mess:

Saslaw floated the idea of a statewide transportation plan that would allow increases in the gasoline tax, the sales tax on automobiles, and an increase in the tax on real estate sales to raise money to replenish the state’s highway maintenance fund, which is $400 million short of meeting the state’s maintenance needs.

Notice that none of this proposed new money is aimed at easing congestion, setting priorities, reforming VDOT or any of the dozen other items that need to be addressed. Instead, it’s all about the Benjamins…as many of them as he can shovel into the existing system, no questions asked.

Not that the GOP has many bright ideas either. Pressing tax authority for new roads down onto unwilling localities is just another way of passing (someone else’s) buck.

Considering these inputs, it makes me wonder what sort of weird curve Pew used to issue its grades.

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  1. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Norm, Excellent commentary. I’m especially interested to read about Saslaw’s latest gambit for raising funds for transportation. As you rightly observed, “it’s all about the Franklins.”

    While there is a rational nexus between what a citizen pays in gasoline taxes and how much he/she drives, there is only a remote nexus with a sales tax on automobiles, and none with a tax on real estate sales.

    There are so many transportation financing alternatives, as we’ve laid out ad nauseum on this website, that it gets quite frustrating to see the same old tired thinking on display.


  2. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Jim, you mis-characterize what the Republican leadership is doing with ‘thinking’ or you are being overly generous.

    09 will be a rough year for more Republican delegates in Hampton Roads if they vote, again, for the Regional Government and the wrong plan.

    What if the cities and counties don’t raise the taxes and fees for the frankenstein Regional Government? Are they essentially opted out and don’t have to pay the taxes?

  3. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    JAB, I’m not sure from your comment what I’m mis-characterizing. From my perspective, the GOP approach to transportation funding is intellectually incoherent. While the infamous HB 3202 did some good things — devolving responsibility to localities, tying transportation to land use — the fiscal component was an unmitigated disaster.

    In Hampton Roads, the “regional” approach advocated by the General Assembly has many flaws. Even if the most egregious problems are fixed — the lack of accountability and transparency of a non-elected group of people with the power to raise taxes — there still would be tremendous problems. As I’ve said ad nauseum, there needs to be a rational nexus between those who pay for transportation improvements and those who use/benefit from those improvements.

    I plan to lay out a system of principles and alternatives in a future column of the e-zine.

  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    but there also needs to be accountability for those that make land use decisions that result in transportation consequences.

    to continue on a path where land-use decisions are made without regard to the traffic impacts and/or claiming that the State (VDOT) bears responsibility for transportation is to invite more dysfunction…

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