The Rap on Nuckols

Christina Nuckols with the Virginian-Pilot is normally a careful reporter but she committed a major gaffe in her coverage of the fourth and final meeting of the Statewide Transportation Analysis and Recommendation Task Force (START), creating the impression that there is more sentiment for a state wide tax increase for transportation than, in fact, there is.

In the Dec. 17, 2005, edition of the Virginian-Pilot, Nuckols wrote:

RICHMOND — A task force of state senators, business leaders and transportation experts agreed Friday that the state needs to increase spending on roads and transit projects by $1 billion a year.

However, the group wrapped up its final meeting without endorsing a specific plan for raising those dollars or reaching agreement on how to spend the money.

Our reporter Bob Burke, who covered the START hearing for the Road to Ruin attended the entire meeting and says that no agreement was reached to raise $1 billion — or any amount for that matter. Earlier today, Burke checked with Neil Menkes with the Senate Finance Committee to make sure he hadn’t overlooked something. Menkes confirmed that the topic was barely discussed and certainly generated no accord on an amount to be raised. A task force hand-out did mention a $1 billion figure as a starting point for debate, Menks said. But task force Chair Charles R. Hawkins, R-Pittsylvania, specifically noted towards the close of the meeting that he would remove the figure from the panel’s final, written product.

Contrary to the impression created by the Virginian-Pilot story, support for a major transportation tax increase in 2006 is collapsing. Although it remains possible that members of the state Senate could submit a bill to raise taxes, the task force appointed to study the subject — and, most likely, the Senate itself — remains divided. The House of Delegates leadership has vowed to oppose any tax increase, and even Gov.-elect Tim Kaine has said he would refuse to support a transportation-related tax hike until a constitutional amendment were passed to protect the transportation trust fund.

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One response to “The Rap on Nuckols”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    A room full of experienced, sharp and professional reporters might see and hear different things. I heard the beef on the $1 billion as too little. Someone wanted more for maintenance, someone kvetched about too little for transit, someone complained about WAY too little for rail, then the staff tried to explain that the main proposal for a “congestion relief fund” was supposed to be multi-modal but not everybody was getting that.

    There was a pretty good debate on some of the various tax and revenue proposals. And with all that input, we’ll see the bill when Chairman John Chichester wants us to.

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