Kaine Appoints Accountability Commission

With an executive order, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has created the Transportation Accountability Commission to ensure that Commonwealth’s transportation agencies “deliver maximum value for taxpayers, implement rigorous management standards, adhere to appropriate free market principles, and promote wise investments.”

States a press release from the Governor’s office:

“While significant additional public and private investments still are needed to upgrade our transportation system, it is critical that current funding is used in the most efficient and effective manner possible,” said Governor Kaine. “This commission also will consider ‘best practices’ and develop performance measures to further improve public accountability of our transportation agencies and professionals.”

The commission also will recommend “quantifiable outcome measures” for aligning transportation and land use planning.

Norfolk Southern Corporation Senior Vice President James A. Squires has agreed to serve as chairman of the Commission, which will be composed of 15 members, including three cabinet members, local government leaders, legislators, business leaders, and community leaders.

This sounds like a positive development. Cynics might suggest that the Governor is trying to co-opt the House Republican Caucus on the issue of structural reform. So what? The Governor is helping legitimize issues — VDOT and land use reform — that have gone unrecognized for too long.

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5 responses to “Kaine Appoints Accountability Commission”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: …”, it is critical that current funding is used in the most efficient and effective manner possible,” said Governor Kaine.”

    Here’s a headline this commission might want to read…

    Headline: Lower gas tax revenues further limit CDOT spending

    … “CDOT has seen a $55 million revenue loss from lower gas sales [due to more efficient vehicles]
    …[It is expected] that funding for transportation improvements will be cut in half due to the tax revenue drop in 2008-09, and [gas tax revenue – will] disappear altogether in the following years.

    The hit from falling gas tax revenues is only adding to what already is a gaping gulf between the region’s highway needs and the financial ability to meet them.”


    I think this commission will have it’s hands full…

  2. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    “Probably the best test of the merits of Kaine’s proposal, as well as whether the Governor is truly sincere about reform, is whether those who like today’s system begin to strongly criticize the TAC. If the chambers of commerce, the NVTA, the land speculators, the CTB, Senator Chichester and his cronies, the Richmond & Fairfax lobbyists and the like begin to express displeasure because the TAC is servingthe public interest, the Governor may well be on to something — what he campaigned and won election on. If we see the TAC’s standards flunking big projects (e.g., the Western Bypass that just happens to run near where many acres are owned for development) in favor of intersection improvements, the construction of reversible lanes, or timing of all traffic lights in NoVA, the TAC would constitute true reform. If we see the TAC rerouting the Silver Line down the Dulles Toll Road, bypassing the properties of the big landowners and campaign contributors, because it’s more cost effective, then Mr. Kaine will have delivered. If he delivers, he will be repaid with the public’s trust, which will greatly outweigh the anger of the special interest crowd that wins by manipulating today’s broken system.”

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    TMT – you have extremely high expectations!

    The fact that from the get go.. the test of the Commission was not identified is worrisome to me.

    I “could” be he’s being careful not to put known advocates of continuation the status-quo and going after Shucet type folks…

    This is risky also for Kaine – because he has set up expectations for a change of direction – and if at the end of the day.. it’s business as usual.. he will pretty much be discredited.

    … waiting for the other shoe…

  4. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Larry, you have made that comment about fuel consumption before, and I have posted graphs before showing that it isn’t so. Only a couple of months ago, news stories were saying that inspite of the high fuel prices gasoline was being consumed at record rates.


    At least in Ohio, revenue is growing faster than consumption, due in part to periodic increases in the fuel taxes. Last I knew, Ohio is as Republican as they come.

    Nationwide, taxes are 16% of the price today vs 09% in 1981. Anti-tax sentiments aside, surely we would want to reduce consumption given the state of oil supplies, and increasing the price through taxes is one way to do it. But, taking inflation into account gas is cheaper today than in 1981.

    My observation is that while (most) cars are more efficient, that efficiency is showing up in less emissions and greater horsepower, not more fuel economy. My wife’s Jetta, for example gets 24-26 mpg, about what I got onmy 1970 Beetle. Her car has six times as much horsepower as the Beetle.

    The graph shows that we can raise gas revenues, we just haven’t the spine to do what is right and necessary in favor of antitax dogma.

    No one will LIKE higher taxes, and no one is saying that. But it is a reasonable and rational answer to a tleast part of our funding problems, and one that makes good policy sense as well. Plus it is far more egalitarion than some other revenue enhancers that are being promoted, and its result is far more predictable.

    At the very least, if we qare going to argue about it, we ought to have the right numbers.

  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Ray – I stand corrected. The states that have their gas tax indexed and/or have programmed step increases will be able to maintain… for a while… better than states like Va that do not.

    Ohio’s gas tax appears to rise one or two cents a year.. and is in 2005 .. 28 cents – up from 26 cents in 2005.
    I’m not sure if it’s indexed to inflation or has pre-programmed step increases.

    see page 18: http://www.dot.state.oh.us/finance/Annual/Compiled%20Annual%202006.pdf

    If Va .. would institute indexing…tied to inflation. or even better tied to price as a percentage of the total sale price.. .I would agree.. more revenue will be the result – in the short term.

    Over the longer term… simple supply and demand will become more and more a factor as higher priced of gasoline whether from wholesale price increases or gas taxes or both… it will result in reduced consumption and if you try to gain more reveneue by increasing the tax… it will at some point .. simple supply and demand.. will guide consumption.

    But I think.. you’ll find that most legislators no longer consider it a reliable and sustatinable source of long term funding…

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