Missing in Transportation Story

Today’s Daily Press editorial (‘Going Somewhere? Transportation progresss requires action, not more roadblocks’, Sep 18, 2006) cites Bacon’s Rebellion as an ‘asphalt adverse Internet blogger’.
Their story about Republican delegates Glenn Oder, Terrie Suit and Sal Iaquinto supporting Republican delegate Chris Jones’ unelected, unaccountable, tax-and-spend Regional Government solution for Hampton Roads leaves out the part about the unelected, unaccountble, tax-and-spend Regional Government and the new, additional sales tax they will impose for perpetuity.

This is the same government the Hampton Roads voters rejected soundly in ’98 and crushingly in ’02. Suit, Oder, and Jones supported the ’02 Sales Tax Transportation Scam. Apparently, their Republican committees and voters are docile or uninformed.

They will stay uninformed, because the DP doesn’t tell the whole story on Jones’ plan. The Regional Government with taxing authority isn’t needed to just collect tolls. Many Republicans will support user fees – tolls – but not the unaccountable. No elected officials will review their policies or spending or be able to fire their board.

The newspaper doesn’t ask, because it isn’t interested, how much the politicians on the new Regional Government will be paid. How big will the staff be? What will they be paid? What will they do besides collect the additional sales tax? And on and on. It is a jobs program for politicians and friends of politicians. It is the biggest invitation to corruption – the Regional Government will have billions in revenue – that I’ve seen in Virginia.

The bid, if I got it right, is $375m a year for Hampton Roads to get a Third Crossing and pour the concrete for other projects that will result in more congested miles 20 years from now (the ’02 study said) than today. That money can be assured annually in user fees and from tax revenue (up to a $72b budget now) pouring into Virginia’s coffers now.

A Regional Government isn’t needed to make this happen.

Maybe a 10% tax on newspapers would help.

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16 responses to “Missing in Transportation Story”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    In the interests of drilling down to the real issue… and trying to find common ground…

    is it the idea of an unelected bunch of folks collecting and spending tax money and the concept would be just fine if the body was elected AND the taxs approved by local referenda?

    … or is it that the concept of regionalism is wrongheaded with respect any issues that span local jurisdictions?

    Are we opposed to regional water authorities (who collect and spend taxes)… or regional airport authorities (who collect and spend taxes) and regional libraries (who collect and spend taxes)….

    please articulate… on the essence of the agnst….

    for the life of me… I cannot understand why people in Hampton Roads and NoVa would not do exactly what voters in Prince William and Spotsylvania did.. which was to APPROVE using tax money for transportation improvements.

    for the life of me.. I cannot understand why folks concerned about “unelected” taking tax money and spending it on something like local and regional transportation projects… are also not concerned about an unelected VDOT doing just that. In other words, do they prefer an unelected VDOT to an unelected Regional body?

    educate me .. please.. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    I cannot speak for Hampton Roads directly, but one of the biggest objections to the 2002 sales tax referendum in NoVA was that the funds generated by the tax would have been administered by an unelected board. Think CTB North!

    It was pretty clear that the landowners and developers who supported Warner’s sales tax referendum expected that they could manipulate the regional authority to fund projects near their holdings without regard to the value of the project. The proposal offered to fund a few specific projects, but the bulk of the money would have been directed by the unelected regional board.

    Surprise! The voters saw through that one and would likely see through a rehash of the same old plot. If regional authorities are to be created, their positions should be elected — even on a non-partisan basis if need be. Virginia does not need to replicate the CTB. We need officials to spend money on projects that provide measurable results. That will not occur with an appointed board.

  3. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Education, I hope.

    1. You don’t need an unelected government to manage the projects.

    2. You don’t need an unelected government with taxing authority to raise sales taxes for transportation.

    3. You don’t need an unelected government with no accountability – no review of their policies, fees or management – to hand out billions in revenue for consultants, offices, etc, etc.

    Why can’t VDOT manage the projects, raise and collect the tolls and user fees? They are accountable to the Governor – who is accounable to the voters.

    If VDOT is so incompetent that they can’t manage the projects, then create an appointed board accountable to the Gov and GA or an elected board -as a position on the ballot, but do NOT give that authority the power to raise taxes like the sales tax. Tolls and user fees only.

    Make sure the board’s policies, fees, etc are subject to review and accountability by the Gov or the GA.

    None of the above safeguards are in the bill Sen Quayle introduced last year.

    By the ’02 estimates, over $18b in 20 years would go to the unelected regional government. We don’t need to pay politicians to serve on this unelected government – which is part of the bill. We don’t have any controls or accountablity for staff, contracts, etc etc for huge amounts of money. The books would be audited but there is no policy review. The government would go on in perpetuity.

    The regional government was defeated by the voters in 98 and 02. The majority doesn’t want to be taxed by the clowns in the next burg. For example, there is a reason why folks live in Poquoson, York and James City Co and move out of Newport News and Hampton to get there. Hampton’s city council bought chairs at $7k (not kidding) a pop. NN stuck it folks on property taxes until the assessments came on the rich people who live on the James who profit from the city – and suddenly there was a problem.

    The beauty of the Dillon Rule is that anyone who can tax me must face me on the ballot. No taxation without representation.

    In addition to the Speaker’s reforms and initiatives, put tolls on the transportation projects. Let VDOT manage them.

    The GA can vote the priorities for the projects and funding. It just takes leadership.

  4. I’m with JAB on this.

    As a New Englander accustomed to a town meeting form of government, I’m appalled at the idea of someone spending my money who I don’t know and can’t go poke in the chest when I’m unhappy.

    I think JAB’s recollection of what happened last time around is accurate: citizens were not about to approve spending money with such a wishy washy plan as to how it would be spent, and with no control over by whom.

    I, for one, won’t support any kind of rehash of the same old. Nor will I support anyone who does.

  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Thanks for the articulation. I understand the views much better.

    re: “They are accountable to the Governor – who is accounable to the voters.”

    Doesn’t this also describe the CTB as well as many, many other unelected boards who determine how much money to spend on something and have virtually no accountability if the voters don’t like what they spent it on?

    I “think” you are advocating the following but tell me if I got it wrong:

    1. – everything should be a line-item in a budget that is approved only by an elected official – whether it be at the state or local level.

    2. – new taxes only appoved by voters via referenda or elected officials

    3. – the proceeds from new taxes go directly into the budget alluded to in 1. for disposition

    4. – Tolls and “user fees” are NOT taxes and therefore can be managed by unelected officials but you prefer VDOT over private entities.

    Is this the way that Virginia currently operates and are the Regional Authorities proposals really fundamental changes to the way that Virginia currently operates?

    Is this Speaker Howell’s position also?

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    In this mornings news:

    “House Transportation Chairman Leo Wardrup, R-Virginia Beach, has filed a bill to create a Hampton Roads transportation authority with the power to impose tolls on new and existing roads, bridges and tunnels.”


    Here’s the Bill:

    Establishes the Hampton Roads Bridge and Tunnel Authority and transfers from VDOT to the Authority control of and responsibility for (about a dozen or more specific roads/tunnels – see the full text of the bill)

    The bill allows the Authority to impose and collect tolls for the use of these facilities. The Authority’s creation is subject to an affirmative vote of six or more of the local governing bodies of localities embraced by the Authority. Any local governing body that has not voted on participation in the Authority by January 1, 2007, will be deemed to have voted in favor of participation.


    Note also.. that there is another Bill (HB5072) entitled:

    Transportation; Hampton Roads Transportation Authority; supplemental funding for Hampton Roads. Creates the Hampton Roads Transportation Authority ….The bill also authorizes and dedicates various revenue sources to the Authority.

    The Authority may impose and collect tolls …., additional local fees ..annual vehicle registrations.., Initial Registration Fee … transient occupancy tax of 5% of the charge for the room; and (iv) rental car transportation impact fee of 2%.

    The news article implies that the first bill’s sponsor – Waldrup is “close” to Speaker Howell.

    The differences between the two bills are stark – Waldrups is essentially TOLLs-only.. while the other is wide in scope but BOTH bills create a Regional Authority.

    Extapolating… it appears that Speaker Howell supports the creation of Regional Authorities but NOT for taxing powers.

    Is this what JAB supports?

  7. Jim Bacon Avatar

    It’s nice to see that the Daily Press acknowledges the existence of Bacon’s Rebellion and, better yet, some of the ideas that we have fought for. It’s the first time (that I have seen) that the DP has even acknowledged the existence of alternatives to the tax-spend-build philosophy it has consistently endorsed. Even more miraculously, the DP concedes that some of those ideas for increasing the capacity of existing thoroughfares may have merit, though, of course, they are not sufficient to solve Hampton Roads’ congestion problems.

    I find it amusing that the DP describes Bacon’s Rebellion as being part of the “amen chorus” of Delegates Howell and Waldrup. First of all, along with columnists Ed Risse and Patrick McSweeney, I have been championing different approaches to transportation for years. I have been systematically exploring new technologies, new business models and new ideas. The descriptor “amen chorus” — a phrase that indicates a mindless parroting of someone else’s ideas — would be more appropriately applied to those who have mindlessly repeated the Conventional Wisdom. The Daily Press editorial page, for instance.

  8. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    agree… I was struggling to find out exactly where in BR that DP said the amen chorus was hiding….


    DP sez .. that no matter what is done that more money is needed and the rest is arranging virtual deck chairs…

    In other words.. the REAL issue is about more money.. period.

    they say this despite the fact that the central issue in BR has been the how, why, when, where NEW money will be spent and WHO will provide new money.

    Of course the DP thinks those drivers down in Farmville should pay it and that Tidewater should spend it just the way it’s been spent in the past.

    “Just give us the money and go away”.

    But the DP prefers to talk about “amen choruses” rather than substantive issues apparently.

  9. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Larry Gross: Got a call this morning that the Jones bill is different from the Quayle bill. And I heard there is a Waldrup bill, too.

    Read the Jones bill. Will look at the Waldrup and do a compare and contrast posting.


    My concern about Regional Governments – is primarily accountability, then – rationalization of taxes, excess taxes and bad plans – back to accountability.

  10. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: accountability – totally 100% agree.. but see similar issues with VDOT and Regional Authorities.

    The real question is what do you do when a Govt Agency fails to make itself accountable to the public.

    What is the solution? Dismantle the Agency and reallocate it’s function to another agency or private entity?

    If you dislike Regional govt entitities I bet you love the School Systems in Va where most are run like miniature fiefdoms and literally are the tails that wag the BOS who take the heat from taxpayers.

  11. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: compare/constrast bills

    I wish I was so talented. Through experience.. I have found that one phrase.. one word… in a bill can have far more meaning and import than all the rest of the words in that bill.

    Further.. that one word.. might not “be there”.. literally up until hours before the bill leaves committee.. goes to the floor and becomes law.

    Such words are created, often … it seems .. are often made .. with two guys standing next to each other at the urinals… ๐Ÿ™‚ (or a thousand other venues where “small talk” is anything but…. ).

    I think what can be “gleaned” is the major thrusts…(like more taxes or not).. and how the leadership feels about those issues.

    You can have a wonderful bill… until the tax word appears and it’s DOA in the leadership. right?

  12. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    speaking of GA Bills…. in my inbox this morning:

    SB 5025 Tangible personal property tax relief; repealed.
    H. Russell Potts, Jr.

    Summary as introduced:
    Repeal of tangible personal property tax relief. Repeals tangible personal property tax relief on passenger cars, motorcycles, and pickup or panel trucks for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2008. Under the bill, the annual $ 950 million currently dedicated for tangible personal property tax relief would be appropriated for transportation purposes.

    Isn’t this Jim Gilmore’s “gift” to Virginia taxpayers?

    hmmm… and notice the reallocation of the funds from localities to VDOT… NICE SHOT!

    this ought to get those thinking caps twitching

  13. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Larry Gross: The BOS and many School Boards are elected from the locality.

    The regional transportation authority won’t be and no person will run for office to be on that authority.

    I posted by compare and contrast of two Republican bills.

  14. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Here’s an excerpt from the Connection Newspapers:

    One of the most talked about plans, which could raise $400 million annually for Northern Virginia, is the Albo-Rust bill. …the bill would authorize local governments to raise revenue through a package of “fees.”

    Local governments, including the boards of supervisors and city councils, in Northern Virginia would increase various fees and taxes, and dedicate the money from the increase to transportation. If a locality does not implement all of the increases, it will not be able to receive any of the money.

    The money would then be spent to fund Metro and a host of smaller projects. The balance would be turned over to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to spend on its transportation plan.
    “We raise it in Northern Virginia, we keep it in Northern Virginia,” Rust said.

    Local governments, however, are not excited about the proposal. For one, the bill would require local governments to increase taxes next year, when many supervisors are up for re-election.

    Additionally, said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Gerry Connolly (D), transportation is supposed to be a state responsibility.

    Both Connolly and Zimmerman said that local governments in Northern Virginia are united in their resistance to bearing the entire burden.

    Northern Virginia’s assembly delegation, however, sees it differently. By making the tax local, they say, it keeps the money here. Money sent to Richmond, can easily be hijacked and sent to other parts of the state. “This is the guarantee that it stays here,” said Del. Vivian Watts (D-39).

    Connolly and Zimmerman both pointed to Northern Virginia’s regional gas tax which is a state tax, and which they say has not been appropriated by other regions. “There’s a precedent,” Connolly said.”

    It would seem if each locality via it’s elected officials would bear responsibility for the new taxes and it also appears that the intended use would also be known.

    I would assume local jurisdictions would have the option of hold a referendum (or not).

    I would assume also that a locality could subsequently repeal same taxes if voters and/or their elected officials did not feel they were getting value out of the expenditures.

    This “sounds” like a Regional approach without being a Regional Authority.


  15. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    The Hampton Roads authority bill doesn’t allow a locality to lower its taxes or opt out once in – until all projects are completed, bonds paid,etc = forever.

    Kinda like the union of states after 1865.

  16. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    all it takes is one little bill in the GA hopper with the words “repeal”…

    and here’s something to chew on. Virginia does not have citizen initiated referenda like other states do.

    should it? .. or is the cure worse than the disease? ๐Ÿ™‚

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