More Local Opposition to the House Transportation Compromise

A key to the House transportation compromise is legislation that would create transportation authorities in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads and allow them to raise revenues to fund regional road projects. Hampton Roads would have power to impose tolls highways, increase vehicle registration and inspection fees, and boost the commercial real estate tax — and slap a $5-per-night fee on hotels rooms.

As Tom Holden with the Virginian-Pilot reports, a Hampton Roads transportation authority would require support from at least six of the 11 Hampton Roads cities or counties. A letter from Virginia Beach Mayor Meyera Oberndorf to the region’s General Assembly delegation suggests that the region’s most populous localities has doubts about the plan.

The tax, said Oberndorf, would have “an exceptionally negative effect on our ability to compete for conventions.”

Del. Kenny Melvin, D-Portsmouth, who voted against the House compromise last week, suggested that the regional financing plan was doomed even if passed into law. “I don’t believe there are six jurisdictions that will buy into this package.”

Update: Of course, there are local Republicans in Northern Virginia raising hell, too. Marc Fisher with the Washington Post interviews Corey Stewart, the new chairman of the Prince William County board of supervisors, who is mad as hell at statewide Republicans and isn’t going to take it anymore. Other than orchestrating a moratorium on rezonings and trying to pry a larger share of state transportation revenues out of Richmond, he doesn’t offer any solutions that address underlying problems — at least none that appear in Fisher’s column.

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26 responses to “More Local Opposition to the House Transportation Compromise”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Jim Bacon:

    The so-called compromise transportation package now before
    the General Assembly was created
    in secret meetings in a posh downtown Richmond hotel late last

    The failure of General Assembly GOP
    members to involve all of the stakeholders in this process was
    a major political mistake.


    Rodger Provo

  2. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    What’s that smell??? – who keeps leaving a rotten corpse of a dead horse on this blog???

    Moving on . . .

    BTW – Democrat Mayor Oberndorf seems to have no problem with all the new taxes, fees, and tolls proposed to be inflicted upon the vast MAJORITY of the fine, hard working citizens of Virginia Beach – but woe unto anyone that dares tax the oceanfront hotels that cause so much of the summer highway congestion within our region!!! Especially the over whelming traffic of out of town “visitors” at the HRBT!!!

    Folks – those oceanfront hotel owners sure know how to write nice checks to local political campaigns. And best of all – Democrat Mayor Oberndorf gets to slam the Republican-controlled General Assembly in the process.

    Did the Mayor offer any proof whatsoever that supports her claim that adding a $5 room tax will hurt the convention business in Virginia Beach???

    Hint: The answer is – No! – because there isn’t any real proof – just speculation.

  3. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Reid, I always wondered about the commitment of Hampton Roads politicians to the tourism industry. Is tourism really and industry that the community wants to protect and promote at all costs? As you say, the influx of tourists turns Hampton Roads into traffic hell during the summer season. Is that why the region is going to tax the bejeebers out of itself to pay for more roads — to make sure the tourists keep coming and to ensure a strong supply of jobs for Hampton Roadsters as maids and waiters?

  4. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun


    It isn’t that the local power brokers are so hung up on the idea that Tourism is a real economic driver (they KNOW it creates far too many low paying jobs).

    I think it is more a symptom that the same local yokle big fish in a small pond business folks run the show/backroom deals around here – and they “know” three things well:

    1. Tourism

    2. RE Development/building

    3. The Port

    So their lack of experience and lack of innovation & imagination – and their conservative “investment strategy” is to stick with what they ‘know’ – and to “grow” inspite of themselves because the Federal Government spends so much money in the region due to the military.

    But as far as how much the oceanfront hotel/tourism lobby influences local politics in Va Beach – along with the HRACRE (REGIONAL real estate developers and lenders) influence regional politics, the TOURISM LOBBY has all the bought and paid for local politicians they require – and then some.

    Face it, other than the now closed Ford F-150 truck plant – and the excellent Stihl chainsaw plant – and the NN shipyard, we don’t make a whole lot here in Tidewater.

    Our only true Fourtune 500 private firm is Norfolk Southern – HQed in downtown Norfolk. That and Trader Publishing Company (Auto traders).

    We used to grow a lot of crops and life stock here – now we pretty much just grow expensive suburban SFHs and more traffic congestion.

    You ask if the locals want to protect Tourism? Heck no! We hate Tourists in Va Beach!

    But the Tourism lobby loves to “invest” in local politicians.

  5. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Hampton Roads has the makings of a world-class technology cluster in the modeling/simulation field. The region could create far superior jobs at far less expense by concentrating its energies on building that cluster rather than tourism. If we want to be like Mexico, then tourism is OK. If we want to be more like Boston, Austin or NoVa, we should be investing in modeling and simulation.

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’m listening to both TW/HR and Prince William … saying to the State – “give us money for roads”.

    Apparently both Prince William and TW/HR think that other taxpayers in the state are going to chip in their tax dollars for these two jurisdicitions..

    unless of coures.. Fairfax gets in line… and Fredericksburg… then Charlottesville.. then all of them asking the State to give them more money….

    Where do these jurisdictions think that money is going to come from?

    OH.. NOW I get it.

    They want the state to tax their constitutents.. so the State can get the blame instead of them.

    .. pretty tricky.. heh heh

  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Hard to figure how/why folks in the NoVa and HR/TW regions don’t see/understand that under a state approach – they will LOSE money and under a Regional tax thyself approach – they get to keep it all.

    Can’t really blame this on the GA.

    The GA has tried to provide them with a mechanism… for controlling their own destiny AND to control and keep their own money.

    If they bail on this.. many in the GA will not feel bad about walking away.

    I think NoVa and HR/TW are on the dime on this.

    fish .. or cut bait…

  8. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    The state owns the Port of Hampton Roads – not us folks that live here. The state gets any tax money “profits”, not us.

    The VPA (Port) wants $4.4 Billion Dollars (without including the interest to bepaid on the bonds) to build a new bridge tunnel for their new trucks.

    WHY on earth would WE, the residents of Tidewater what to pay for that?

    Not to mention, I live far away from the port – in Sandbridge. WHY should I pay more taxes for the state’s port wants?

    If the STATE wants a $4.4B fancy bridge-tunnel for their port expansion – let the STATE pay for it.

    The VPA is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of VA – not a local asset or local property.

    The STATE wants the so-called “3rd Crossing” – not us – it does nothing to help us residents to reduce our current traffic congestion.

    In November 2002 We, The People already voted this down – the so-called “3rd Crossing”.

    The referendum failed by a 2 to 1 margin opposed.

    Hello! WE DON”T WANT IT – nor do we want to pay for it.

    The Port want’s it – and the local special interest Growth Lobby.

  9. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    RG – Why not impose a surcharge on all items going in and out of the Port? Then use the proceeds to fund the third crossing? This way our Governor and his crowd could decide what level of added burden the Hampton Roads Port could carry and remain competitive.

    If the Port of Hampton Roads cannot carry a surcharge to fund the third crossing that its managers claim is needed, why should the Port be expanded?

  10. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    The problem with simulation here is the fact that there is already such a cluster centered around Orlando. All the big defense players are active there, because of the wealth of manpower and skillsets.

    Around here there are really very few jobs associated with IT as a whole, much less something as sophisticated as simulation development. There is no critical mass of IT workers with the skills to build such a technological mecca. Such an endeavor would be akin to building the Internet using only Commodore 64’s.

  11. nova_middle_man Avatar


    I think the goal is to change the transportation formula as a whole
    to make it more equitable and then like you said have the state tax to avoid the local stigma of having greater taxes

    “We’re already getting punished: Northern Virginia produces 40 percent of the state’s revenue, but we get back only 17 percent of state transportation funding. That inequity is the real issue, and we’re . . . not yelling enough.”

    The goal is make the 17 into 40

    Going along with the current plan is the same old status quo

    Say currently the state takes 1,000 and the regional plan takes 1,000. The NoVA cut is say 50% on the dollar so under this plan you get 1,500

    The “goal” is to change the plan so NoVA gets 100% on the dollar and then the regional plan disappears. So then state taxes would be 2,000 and NoVA would get 2,000 back.

    Of coures this is all me guessing :-p

  12. “Where do these jurisdictions think that money is going to come from?”

    “….let the STATE pay for it.”

    Of course, why not. But who do we think “the state” is, that guy behind the tree?

    I think what Larry is missing is that it isn’t an either/or situation. As I understand it NOVA would be “allowed” to tax themselves, but they would still have to supply the rest of the state with forty percent of the states budget.

    Now, if the ROVA wants to do WITHOUT the money that comes from HR and NOVA so that they can spend their own money at home, then that might be different.

    If that happens (it won’t) then according to EMR’s calculations that guy in Farmville you keep talking about would have to pay something like 10x because he has far more miles of road per person.

    More road per person translates to lower congestion at higher costs – exactly the same as if you charge for congestion.

    So, in NOVA we charge for congestion and keep the money at home, then in the rest of the state you charge for not having congestion. That way the State gets more money to pay for things with, and all of the states’ constituents get what they pay for.

    I’m beginning to like this Henry George dual taxation idea. After a hundred years Henry is still waiting, so oI guess we will all just have to live with gridlock in the GA.

    At least until the next election.

  13. The real problem with modeling simulation is that by the time you get one that works, with all the variables accounted for by high paid individuals, you could almost just go out and conduct experiments in the real world.

    For a cockpit simulation it isn’t so bad, you have a limited set of variables and flight parameters. But for social simulations, like traffic models, well, you had better have a blank check handy.

  14. Dear Comrade Bacon:

    You have correctly distilled the issue down to the following quote:

    “…trying to pry a larger share of state transportation revenues out of Richmond.”

    Yes, they are revenues not taxes.

    Yes, the money is owned by “Richmond” not the taxpayers who shelled out the dough.

    Yes, anybody with enough gall to want the taxpayers to get the money they pay out from the fearless leaders in “Richmond” is PRYING the money from its true owners.

    If I send you my copy of the Communist Manifesto will you autograph it and send it back?

    OK – I know you write a lot of good stuff on your blog. And I know that it’s overreaching to put too much emphasis into a few words. But PRYING the money back from Richmond.

    Is that really the way you see things?

  15. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: HR/TW ports “need”.

    I agree that the ports are the State’s deal but is it true that beyond the port/trucks/tunnel that they are no other transportation needs in HR/TW?

    If HR/TW tolls all tunnels including the 3rd crossing – wouldn’t that assure the revenues staying with the Region better than having the State collect the money and allocate back to HR/TW their theoretical “share”.

    So I stick by my original comments sans the Port issue.

    The very best deal for HR/TW is to tax themselves and keep the money themselves.

    The worst deal is to have the State and VDOT get their hands onthe money to start with.

    The folks who live in that region can make one or the other choice or they can have a 3rd choice – no money and status quo on traffic.

  16. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Here’s what I think is the bottom line for NoVa (and HR/TW for that matter).

    You can control your own revenues and your own destiny or you can continue to “attempt” to essentially convince the rest of Virginia to agree to give back money that they are already spending and would have to be made up locally – in some places – from people who are already on the edge economically.

    It’s little more than wishful thinking …. will not much sentiment in the GA.

    It’s not much different in terms of a realistic outcome than those that advocate raising the gas tax.

    The point is to take a path that is actually open to you and to use that opportunity to do the most good for the region that you can under the circumstances

    .. WHILE you work these other issues that may not bear shorter term fruit neither in quantity/quality.

    Finally, if you depend on the State and VDOT… let’s just pretend that you get ALL of your money back but VDOT controls it and rather than focus that money on congestion reduction.. they go straight for the Western Transportation Corridor and/or a passal of other mega project.. old school responses to congestion.

    NoVA has to chance to wrest control of both revenue and decisions to determine it’s own vision of how to proceed rather than have it held hostage by downstate Va and/or VDOT.

    What part of “no brainer” do I NOT understand?

  17. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    Two things:

    1. The problem with so-called “local control” in TW/HR is that the whole transportation decision-making process is “owned” by the local business lobby – and they IGNORE the will of the people. We, The People.

    The agenda of the HRPDC/MPO, TSCHR/HRT are actually set by the Hampton Roads Partnership.

    Yes, we are a ‘donor region’, kinda like NORVA, but much less than NOTVA. NORVA is really screwed over by the state redistributing their tax funds.

    For us taxpayers living in TW/HR, We, The People benefit from having a state-wide view/decison-making process – because when folks outside our region look at dumb spending proposals like the $4.3B “3rd Crossing” they have the common sense to say “Are You Nuts? Not only “No!”, but “Hell No!”.

    2. M&S: Our region has a growing M&S center VMASC – located in Suffolk – right next to JFCOM. LMCO has invested some significant $$$ here = as they thought JFCOM’s budgets were a new well-spring of abundantly flowing Federal dollars. Recently the Feds wised up and now JFCOM will come under the same type of Federal/DoD budgeting/acquisition process (bean counter bureacrats) as the rest of DoD – and the days of endless federal “funding” have dried up here for JFCOM. The Gazillions of tax dollars being spent in the Middle East had to come from somewhere …

    Note: JFCOM = Joint Forces Command

  18. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I agree with your predicament but two questions

    You say:”For us taxpayers living in TW/HR, We, The People benefit from having a state-wide view/decison-making process”

    1. WHO do you think is making those decisions and do you think those folks that WILL make those decisions are accountable to HR/TW voters?

    2. WHO do you think you have a better chance of challenging decisions that you disagree with?

    a. folks outside of the HR/TW region?

    b. folks inside of the Region?

    Is your situation so hopeless that you’ll agree to have an unelected and totally unaccountable person in an office building in Richmond over your own elected (who appoint your Regional)?

    I just don’t get it.

    What approach do folks in that region favor with regard to improving their transportation network?

    I got the impression that you were not thrilled with VDOT… nor with your own Regional… so WHO?

  19. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Jim Bacon and Reid Greenmun: Darrell from Chesapeake is right about the core capabilities for a modeling and sim industry. I do that in my dayjob.

    Over time something may build if more developpers are brought.

    Most of the development – the code writing – is in Orlando and for my part of a Defense giant – in CA.

    Not being negative, just realistic. Most of what happens here is implementation and integration.

  20. Jim Wamsley Avatar
    Jim Wamsley

    I see that progress has been made in the discussion on this blog. .
    “Finally, if you depend on the State and VDOT… let’s just pretend that you get ALL of your money back but VDOT controls it and rather than focus that money on congestion reduction.. they go straight for the Western Transportation Corridor and/or a passal of other mega project.. old school responses to congestion.

    NoVA has to chance to wrest control of both revenue and decisions to determine it’s own vision of how to proceed rather than have it held hostage by downstate Va and/or VDOT.”

    Current legislation allows NoVa to generate its own revenue. The decision to spend it has been made by the GA. It is to be equitably divided by jurisdiction.
    The problem is congestion. The solution requires a 2020 Plan division before rail to Potomac Mills was added. The 2020 Plan called for half the money for transit in the inner suburbs.

    We have history here. The 2010 Plan called for the same thing. VDOT built the highways and we have more congestion.

    Until the GA decides to fight congestion gridlock will continue.

  21. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun


    Q1. WHO do you think is making those decisions and do you think those folks that WILL make those decisions are accountable to HR/TW voters?

    Larry – I have better success with the Governors, the CTB and GA then I ever do with the local yokel PDC/MPO and their real “leaders”, the closed door/myopic Hampton Roads Partnership/Chamber/HRACRE gang (They like to call themselves “business leaders”).

    The TW/HR PDC/MPO is all-appointed. The agenda is controlled by unelected voting members – 17 CAOs (Cheif Administration Officers – City Managers and County Superintendents)

    The CTB is also all-appointed, but they seem to be more reasonable to taking an more objective view of TW/HR big ticket “wants” as they relate to transportation.

    Q2. WHO do you think you have a better chance of challenging decisions that you disagree with?

    a. folks outside of the HR/TW region?

    b. folks inside of the Region?

    Folks outside of TW/HR – the local Growth Lobby will screw the local taxpayers in a New York minute if they think they can line their own pockets.

  22. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Groveton, Let me illuminate my “pry back” remarks. There are two points.

    First point: One reason that Northern Virginia gets back only a fraction of the tax money it sends to “Richmond” is that much of the state budget goes to maintaining Interstates and primary roads that connect cities and regions. By necessity, those primary roads run through countryside. Can’t have it any other way. If you want the connectivity… if you want to be able to get in your car and drive on an Interstate highway to Florida, or Showshoe, W.Va., or Charlotte, N.C., you have to live with the fact that some of your transportation tax dollars pays to build and maintain roads in rural parts of the state.

    Admittedly, Virginia’s transportation funding formula is probably lopsided and unfair when it comes to distributing money for secondary roads and local roads as well… but not to the same degree as suggested by the commonly touted numbers.

    I would find the rhetoric emanating from Northern Virginia less objectionable if it weren’t always cast in the form of “NoVa vs. RoVa.” The fact is, metropolitan taxpayers, including those in Hampton Roads and Richmond, also get hosed by a transportation funding formula that favors rural areas. Your “NoVa vs. RoVa” rhetoric turns off people downstate who might otherwise be sympathetic.

    Second point: Even if jiggering with the transportation funding formula could shift $100 million or so in transportation dollars to NoVa, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the region’s needs. Politicians who demagogue on that particular issue are avoiding the underlying issues — dysfunctional land use patterns, obsolete governance systems, the lack of a pricing mechanism to allocate scare highway capacity — that must be grappled with.

    Bottom line: Yeah, Virginia’s transportation funding formula is unfair to Northern Virginia, but (a) your “fair share” is probably less than you think it is, and (b) it won’t come close to solving your transportation problems.

  23. I understand that the NOVA vs ROVA language is confrontational. I have changed my own rhetoric to “Stop the Robbery”.

    I believe you are correct about HR, Richmond and NOVA being in the same “transportation funding pickle”. I’d also add Charlottesville although this is a guess.

    And I don’t know NOVA’s “fair share” but neither do you. Nor, apparently, does anyone else. Ditto for HR, Richmond, Charlottesville.

    And THAT’S the point. This whole state is mired in opaque, arcane processes and money flows that nobody understands. So, when well intentioned ideas like using tolls are brought up they are not discussed on their merits. They are discussed in the context of a Mafia-like state legislature which is presumed to be laundering money from one region to another in total secrecy.

    The first step is to get some transparency from the state government. Nothing significant will happen until that occurs.

    So – why isn’t HR and Richmond and Charlottesville asking for transparency along with NOVA?

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

    By the way – I travel all over the US and all over the world. About 300,000 air miles per year. It seems to me that Hampton Roads has immense potential to become a New South metropolis. Balanced growth, ecomonic growth, great lifestyle. HR is much better positioned than Charlotte, Jacksonville or even Atlanta.

    But where’s the plan?

    Why is HR failing to achieve its potential?

  24. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Groveton: Why do you need a plan for HR/Tidewater?

    Government would do well to build a bridge-tunnel from the Port of Virginia to an improved 460 corridor.
    And some extra tuhes on the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel is a government challenge. Other than that, what plan do you propose?

    If there is money to be made, capitalists will make it.

    What else does Government need to do?

  25. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun


    Apparently the GA thinks the answer to your question is more All-appointed, unaccountable regional government.

    They keep throwing it into every major new funding bill they write ….

    Hey Roger – what is the “other side of this story” you think we forgot to include???

    Just curious and all. We all want these posts to be up to your high standards for professional bloggism and all. We appreciate you pointing out how we forget to include pro-Liberal big government or pro-tax & spend points of view from time to time.

    Thanks for the good tip, buddy.

  26. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I don’t think the GA wanted a regional authority for HR/TW.

    RoVa would be perfectly happy to let HR/TW stew in their own traffic – right?

    Wasn’t your own elected GA guys who wanted this approach?

    What exactly would you have your elected GA from TW/HR advocate for – for your region?

    Reid? Darrell? JAB?

    Will they be voted out for those efforts?

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