“Streamlining” State Government


rabbing onto a popular, bi-partisan trend, Gov. Bob McDonnell is set to “streamline” Virginia government. He has named a 31-member panel headed by the man who led President George H.W. Bush’s unsuccessful reelection campaign in 1992.

On one level, there are reasons to examine cutting state government. The state faces a multi-billion budget shortfall, which is part of the $60 billion national shortfall that states face after the Great Recession, according to stateline.org. So, it may make sense to make sure that taxpayers are getting a decent bang for their tax buck.
To be sure, a number of states are doing this. In Washington state, Democrat Christine Gregoire, the governor, has been on a streamlining binge. She’s eliminated 75 state commissions and shut down 25 driver’s license centers, replacing them with online kiosks. Nebraska is thinking of merging staffs at community colleges. Massachusetts has merged four transportation authorities into two. And in Louisiana, the state is trying to require prison inmates to take high school GED training with the idea if they get a diploma while in the pen, they’ll likely get a job on the outside and be less likely to go back to prison and cost the state more money.
As a Republican, McDonnell likes the idea of government streamlining because it fits his political philosophy of promoting limited government. This could be his defining issue after four months of debacles that have left Virginia a national laughingstock.
Yet there are some limits to what can actually be done.
The biggest is that Virginia already seems to be doing a pretty good job in state government. The Pew Center on the States rates the state A minus, along with Utah and Washington. The average score is a B minus. Neighbor Maryland got a B and North Carolina got a B minus. West Virginia got a C plus. The ratings deal with how well a state manages employees, budget, finance, information and infrastructure.
If the Pew Center ratings are to be believed, we are not in a situation where a broken-down state government badly needs a house cleaning. This may be how McDonnell’s team projects the issue, along with their cronies in the conservative state media. But the fact remains that previous Democratic Governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine did a pretty good job running the state. Pretending they didn’t is counter-productive.
But, as noted before, McDonnell needs a defining issue if he is to have a political future. Streamlining seems a sensible way to go, especially since loose cannon Atty. Gen. Kenneth Cuccinelli has taken all of the high ground when it comes to social, hard-right issues. In fact, the “Cooch” is making McDonnell look like a buffoon by straying so far afield by suing the EPA on carbon dioxide and harassing the University of Virginia with a Joe McCarthy-style probe on global warming (more on that tomorrow).
What the states need more than a blue ribbon commission on “streamlining” is one that creates more jobs. To his credit, McDonnell is on the case, but he’s efforts won’t even make recommendations until this fall.
Badly-hit areas such as Southside and Southwest Virginia can’t wait that long. After all, McDonnell managed to pay up to $14 million in state money to get the HQ of defense contractor Northrop Grumman to move from Los Angeles to Northern Virginia. That involves all of 300 jobs in a firm that probably would have located to the state anyway.
Peter Galuszka

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29 responses to ““Streamlining” State Government”

  1. Michael Hikari Avatar
    Michael Hikari

    Good post, but the Pew assessment is neither a golden indicator that everything is perfect nor necessarily an index on bloat. As far as Pew is concerned, Virginia's government works relatively well, but doesn't tell us if this is because of or in spite of government's size/redundancy, etc.

    Also, I'd take issue with the idea that the only time to be streamlining government is when things are awfully bad. As many states show us, too late is often, well, too late. It's precisely during times of relative health that a state should be taking a good look at itself and finding better ways to do business, cut the fat, and innovate. This, I'd imagine, is indicative of good governance. Messrs Warner and Kaine, who both inherited relatively strong situations, will be remembered as capable fellas because they didn't just shrug and consider the work finished.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Some thoughts:
    1st report due mid-July=we already know what the recommendations are going to be?

    Gov. McDonnell appointed regulatory review commission while AG; after 4 years nothing substantive done.

    In 2006, JLARC reviewed the status of 735 recommendations by Gov. Wilder, Allen & Warner commissions on cost-savings; found fewer than 60 remained un-implemented.

    As with ANY organization, largest costs are personnel. No savings without layoffs.

    Virginia's track record with privatization has not been stellar. Bosun

  3. James A. Bacon Avatar
    James A. Bacon

    Virginia has a long tradition of efficient government that transcends partisan control of either the governor's office or the legislature. Good government is a bipartisan issue.

    One of the reasons Virginia stays at the top (or very near the top) of the list of best run states is that each governor takes the issue seriously and seeks to push the state of the art in state governance. McDonnell is to be commended for following in this long tradition.

    That said, I agree with Peter that squeezing waste, fraud and abuse out of the system will not yield impressive savings. It's something that must be done, but we should be realistic. There are no silver bullets here. The only way to bring down the cost of government without sacrificing the quality of services is to radically rethink the way we deliver core functions like schools, higher ed, Medicaid, transportation and land use. McDonnell shows no signs of being open to such radical reinvention.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    It always makes sense to make sure that taxpayers are getting a decent bang for their tax buck.

    In fact, if they are getting a really good bang for their buck, lowering taxes and reducing programs may not make sense.


  5. Anonymous Avatar

    One big area that should be examined are "hidden" taxpayer subsidies to business. While I don't agree with overt subsidies to recruit a business (with the possible exception of poverty areas), at least they are open.

    But Virginia's government has lots of less-than-visible subsidies to businesses — most especially real estate development. Let's start with the $5.3 billion no-bid contract for Phase I of Dulles Rail, which Mark Warner's administration signed. Then, there is the failure to adopt an adequate public facilities law that forces government, including VDOT, to spend money building roads where developers want them and not necessarily where they would produce the best returns on investment. Ditto for reforming the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

    We also see the more than $200 million annual subsidy for overweight trucks. And those are just the legal ones with permits.

    Michael Hikari – I agree with your assessment of Mark Warner. While I don't trust him on taxes (he campaigned on no taxes), but Warner did do quite a bit at pushing Virginia government towards more efficiency. But Tim Kaine was not a good governor, except for his support for the 527 traffic impact analysis law, which is superb. Kaine allowed state government employment to creep past the point where Warner started cutting. Has Virginia grown that fast? Kaine also tried to expand programs when all signs showed a softness in the economy. That is just as bad as Gilmore's push for another year of car tax cuts in the face of a softening economy.

    IMO, Virginia needs to look at efficiency in education. How much of our resources from kindergarten through graduate and professional schools are not in the classroom?

    Reign in the developers and the educational bureaucracy, and we'd see some real improvements.


  6. Larry G Avatar
    Larry G

    It's true there may be other measures of "bloat" or "inefficiency" beyond the Pew so provide them in evidence if they exist.

    I don't think making a blank statement means there is a blank slate approach necessarily.

    I support efforts to transform as much government as we can to privatized user-fee funded services but just to take one example – transportation.

    Transportation has been the subject of reviews and audits since George Allen and before and not without some beneficial changes and not without some more than can be made.

    For instance, why should VDOT maintain what are essentially private subdivision roads that the residents do not want used as connecting streets by non-residents?

    this is a big part of VDOT's maintenance budget.

    let's fix this ESPECIALLY when McDonnell and his ilk "say" they are all about smaller govt and more personal responsibility and less entitlements.

    I welcome it.

    Don't raise taxes – institute user fees for new highways – tolls – where those that actually want and need them – pay for them.

    Have the localities take over local roads and let local residents decide how much tax they want to pay to maintain their local roads.

    I can go into other areas such as Education with the same concepts – FISCALLY CONSERVATIVE concepts that do not involve totally bogus schemes such as financing our roads form offshore oil.

    You want to finance our roads from extraction industries?

    Let's get into natural gas which is abundant in Western Va with the additional bonus that it will provide much needed jobs and reduce our reliance on mountain-top removal for coal.

    I think Mr. McDonnell has a very wide ability to re-work government because of the reduced revenues we face.

    Let's get on with it.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    "For instance, why should VDOT maintain what are essentially private subdivision roads that the residents do not want used as connecting streets by non-residents?"

    Heresy against the state religion, but good common sense. Until local governments take control over their local roads, we will still get land use decisions that make transportation worse.


  8. Mimi Stratton Avatar
    Mimi Stratton

    We never go back and review whether we're getting a decent ROI for all the tax subsidies we give away. Then we hear there's no money.

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    "Have the localities take over local roads and let local residents decide how much tax they want to pay to maintain their local roads."
    As St. Ron said, "There you go again."
    Until local governments are guaranteed that the General Assembly, working in concert with special interests or political expediency, will not take away existing taxing authority, any such effort will continue the ruination of the state's road system.
    I offer for example the bills introduced in just the last session that would reduce further local tax authority. It has happened every session since Gilmore. Also, will localities have access to things that you love – user fees? Can they toll subdivision streets, levy a gas tax, etc.? Or will they be left to add another mouth to feed from the real estate tax that conservatives would love so much to cap?

  10. Larry G Avatar
    Larry G

    local taxing authority?

    what do you call property and real estate taxes?

    What do localities do right now with the very substantial taxes they collect on automobiles?

    In 46 other states, your local taxes go to pay for your local roads – you know that much-loved Conservative idea of government that is closest to the people?

    How dumb is it to LOBBY for the STATE to …INCREASE taxes.. on the PREMISE that they'll give back to the localities for their roads ?

    If you believe that then I have a bridge over a swamp for you.

    If we have to raise taxes for roads then why not do it locally where you have a lot more control over how that money is spent whereas if you send that money to the state, they give you a piece of paper called a 6-year plan and we all know how that idea has worked out.

    What taxing authority has the GA taken away anyhow?

    Not real estate, personal property, sales, BPOL, food, accommodation, etc.

    The GA has also offered to some counties like Fairfax the ability to levy an income tax – provided it is spent on roads AND it has to be approved by referenda.

    Now I ask .. what kind of a tax if you have to have one is the kind where people actually can vote for them – or not?

    I keep expecting those who call themselves conservatives to come forward with concepts like this – to actually advocate for govt closer to the people, for people and localities to take more responsibility for their own needs and not expect entitlements but the Conservatives apparently do believe in their own philosophy because when they do get the opportunity these days, they either spend like drunken sailors or they play the very same smoke & mirror games that they claim their tax & spend counterparts do.

    I would like to see Mr. McDonnell TRULY …LEAD on the issue of telling us all that the State of Virginia is NOT a NANNY State and yes – localities should take responsibility for their schools, roads, and development needs and not expect the state to do – what they won't do – raise taxes when they think it is needed.


    The REAL RINOS these days are the Conservatives who masquerade as Conservatives.

    Let's DO some REAL Conservative Governance for a change.

  11. Larry G Avatar
    Larry G

    Here's the path.

    You TOLL the major state roads.

    The local roads become the responsibility of the localities.

    The REGIONAL roads become the responsibility of the MPOS.

    this is the way it is done in many other states.

    I would STOP giving ANY State money to the localities ESPECIALLY for subdivisions AND local developers roads but instead lump it into one pot and give it to the Regional MPO – and REQUIRE that the MPO-developed road plan be approved by referenda.

    If it fails, then nothing gets done until they put together a plan that passes.

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    What tax has the GA taken away? How quickly you forget 'No car tax'. If you and the House had their wish, the state's general fund would still be bleeding to 'keep the promise'.

    As for further erosion, ever since TABOR, legislation & constitutional amendments to cap local property tax. This past session roster of failed bills: limit BPOL, massive machinery & tools tax exemptions, BPOL exemption just to name a few. I don't mind the state giving away the store, but they cannot keep mandating & trying to take away local tax authority.

    And you need to understand the difference between county and city taxing authority. Counties cannot impose meals tax without referendum; more are defeated than pass. Counties have to get permission from the GA to levy a lodging tax-the amount is capped and anything over 2% must be spent on tourism.

    Regional road authority? I doubt that many states have such, but I can be convinced. If they do, the regional entity also has tax authority.

    Subdivision streets simply are not the reason for the statewide transportation funding crisis. The cost of maintaining ALL subdivision streets in the state is only 7% of VDOT’s annual secondary road maintenance budget. Back in 2007, about 200 miles of subdivision streets are accepted into the state system each year; the number is way down now. This is a small fraction of the 55,000-plus miles in the state secondary system. So are you going to make counties maintain all secondary roads?

    Again, how can counties be guaranteed that your proposal will not end up being another shift & shaft – get the responsibility but not the resources. If the state's 'user fee' – gas taxes – are declining, then what will counties use? Real estate tax? Counties have been asking for an income tax for a number of years, but to no avail.

    What is your practical, politically realistic solution? Bosun

  13. Larry G Avatar
    Larry G

    re: "counties cannot raise (some kinds) of taxes without getting the approval of those who will be taxed"


    Oh.. I get it now.. you want the state to give the counties the right to come up with new taxes without approval of the voters,

    I gave you my solution.

    Give the subdivision streets and secondary roads to the counties and give them the same exact urban reimbursement rate that every city and county and Alexandria and Henrico receive.

    Let the localities decide how they want to tax and provide roads the same way they do education and law enforcement and the same way that 46 other states do it.

    Some counties were given the Income Tax but it did require approval of the voters.

    What would be the difference between an ADDITIONAL NEW Tax and just raising the real estate and property taxes to the levels desired?

    What is wrong with presenting bond referenda to county citizens for need infrastructure upgrades – to include roads?

    Why are you continuing to say that the State has to do this?

    Why can't Va Counties do the same thing in the same way that 46 other states do it?

    I'm not buying your 7% number either unless you back it up with some data.

    You can start with this.

    What is the urban reimbursement rate per mile that VDOT gives to cities, towns and counties?

    I have the answer to that.

    do you?

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    Car Tax. I absolutely love the state's reimbursement of the car tax. It is one of the few programs where Fairfax County taxpayers get some of their state tax dollars back from Richmond before they are sent around the Commonwealth to subsidize low real estate taxes.

    The reimbursement sends more tax dollars back north than any state funding program. It's one of the few fair things in the otherwise perverse relationship between NoVA and RoVA.

    I do agree, however, that there are some unfair differences between cities and counties vis a vis certain taxes. But Fairfax County staff has just proposed that any meals tax for the county be used to pay for transportation infrastructure needed to permit Tysons Corner to grow bigger. So much for tax relief or even revenue diversification. I suspect most residents would strongly oppose paying higher taxes to subsidize more real estate development.


  15. Larry G Avatar
    Larry G

    Gilmore was a genius.

    Think about this.

    The local counties – were fat and happy to ABUSE a tax the state had granted to the localities.

    What abuse?

    By charging hundreds of dollars a year for a vehicle such that over 10 years as much as a 1/3 of the cost of the car was tax.

    and then what did they spend that money on?

    not roads.

    let me say that again.


    Nope.. they said that VDOT was responsible for roads, including the local ones, including the subdivision roads, including the developer roads.

    Gilmore decided to have the state intervene and essentially undermine the taxing authority.

    Gilmore KNEW that some day in the future – that a bad budget would tee up the "reimbursement" money for the budget axe.

    so it was like a time bomb.. a sunset clause…

    TMT – can you provide something to substantiate the claim that the tax revenues were not rebated back in the proportion generated?

    developer roads are doomed in most counties if the county ends up being the $$$$s… to fund it.

  16. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry, I would agree with your premise that effectively "the [car] tax revenues were []rebated back in the proportion generated" by the localities. But that is one heck of a win for Fairfax County residents.

    Total car tax relief is capped at $950 million. Fairfax County's FY 2011 budget includes $212.3 million dollars, according to county budget documents. Therefore, Fairfax County receives about 22% of all car tax refunds from the Commonwealth.

    The latest available Virginia Department of Taxation annual report is for tax year 2007 (available from the Cooper Center at UVA online). That report shows Fairfax County residents paid $2.228 billion in individual income taxes for 2007. The total individual income taxes paid by all Virginians for 2007 was $9.601 billion. Thus, Fairfax County residents paid about 23% of the total individual income tax.

    If one assumes state income tax funds much of the General Fund from which the car tax refunds are paid, Fairfax County gets a return of approximately 95.7% on the portion of the individual income taxes paid that fund car tax relief. (22% divided by 23%). Tell me any other state program that gives Fairfax County residents more than 95% of the taxes sent to Richmond.

    It's the best thing ever to happen to Fairfax County residents. It's letting us keep more of our own money.


  17. Anonymous Avatar

    Mr. Larry G.,

    In 2007 as part of the debate over HB3202, VDOT provided the following data:
    $425 million- VDOT’s annual cost to maintain secondary roads (secondary roads include subdivisions streets)

    Less than $30 million a year- VDOT’s annual cost to maintain subdivision streets (or less than 7% to maintain all secondary roads)

    This would seem to indicate that county approval of subdivisions did not create the transportation funding crisis.

    In FY 2007, cities and towns receive street maintenance payments based on a rate of $15,586 for principal and minor arterials and $9,150 for local road lane miles. This results in a statewide payment of $269.5 million for 25,038 lane miles, or a blended rate of $10,764 per lane mine.

    In 2007, Arlington and Henrico also received street maintenance payments, but have only one rate applied to their total lane miles. Arlington has 961 lane miles and will receive a maintenance payment of about $14.0 million in FY 07 or a payment rate of $14,532 per lane mile. Henrico has 3,225 lane miles and will receive about $26.9 million in FY 07 or a payment rate of $8,347 per lane mile.

    If the state wants to give total road responsibility to the 93 other counties along with a funding source, then so be it. I am pretty sure that the state would maintain some control over those roads, such as setting standards for maintenance and construction. This would be another series of mandates.

    Based on past actions of the GA in reducing funding for mandated programs [HB 599, community service boards, standards of quality, etc.] counties could not really count on the state continuing to fund road maintenance and construction at the current level. So, the funding responsibility would fall back on the counties but the mandates would not be reduced.

    The state continues to collect gas taxes for roads, albeit at a declining rate of return. The state continues to reduce funds for state and local road maintenance and construction. The state demands that counties and municipalities maintain roads at a certain standard and leaves it to the localities to fund construction. Localities then have to raise real estate taxes to pay for maintenance and issue bonds for new construction. Cities/towns can issue bonds without referendum; counties cannot. Localities cannot deny rezonings solely because of inadequate transportation facilities.


  18. Larry G Avatar
    Larry G

    Bosun – you did a really fine job of providing information to go with your argument and I applaud you for that effort – as I know from experience the level of effort required to do that.

    Not mentioned in this, until now, is the way that VDOT currently classifies roads which is not the way that most modern DOTs classify them.

    For instance, a Primary Road is not considered a "local" road whereas a "Secondary" always is when in reality Primary and Secondary roads are classified as rural and urban interchangeably without regard to their actual functionality.

    This issue involves the 6yr plan and what roads the locality wants built for economic development verses mobility.

    The localities are famous for yielding to business interests to let them use both secondary and primary roads for business interests rather than requiring Access Management on such roads – which leads to expensive follow-on work including more turn lanes, more traffic signals, and ..more bypasses.

    local land-use and transportation need to be vested in the locality and let them decide if they want to crap up their own roads and then go back to their own voters to pay for fixes as opposed to blaming this on the state and evading accountability for their own irresponsible actions to voters.

    Proper Classification of the road system has been a JLARC-recommended reform for more than a decade and yet, still not done.

    With regard to the subdivision roads, I'd like to see a cite if possible in terms of how many miles of road and the costs you provided.

    This past winter – what was the BIG COMPLAINT? Was it not that people's subdivision roads were not being plowed?

    Why is this NOT an HOA responsibility?

    As far as the reimbursement rate goes – the fear (justifiable) is that VDOT won't continue to fund at the rate they now do as their revenues decline further.

    The GA should devolve the roads to the localities but establish in law the reimbursement rate – and index it but new local roads are the responsibility of the localities especially for economic development.

    I do not believe it is in the best interests of anyone to have the state continue to be responsible for local roads.

    It breeds irresponsible local behaviors with regard to land-use and allows local elected to evade responsibility for those decisions by claiming that it is someone else's responsibility to deal with the consequences of land-use decisions with expensive road infrastructure consequences.

    I do not think, in general that depending on the State to fund these things is good Conservative government either.

    We blather on and on about holding govt accountable and not growing govt but when we DEPEND on the State to do these things, we are fostering more un-accountable behaviors and engendering a mindset where people are EXPECTING the State to provide them with ENTITLEMENTs.

    We know that tax&spend types believe in this.

    But the real surprise is that many who claim Conservative credentials talk-the-talk but then won't walk-the-walk.

    Transportation Reform in my view means allocating to the DOT – State level responsibilities and allocating to the locals – local responsibilities.

  19. Anonymous Avatar

    Mr. Larry,

    The law passed with HB 3202 requires VDOT to reclassify the roads according to the federal classification and it is either nearing finish or completed. Since the Code still speaks of reimbursement according to the old VDOT system – primary, secondary – do not know if they will continue to co-exist until the Code is changed.

    Access Management – now in effect; required by VDOT; it's on their website. Some localities don't like it. Developers want to gut it via the Reform Commission.

    New secondary street requirement for connectivity – now in effect; required by VDOT; it's on their website. Some localities do not like it; others do because they can blame VDOT when have to approve NIMBY development. Developers want to gut it via the Reform Commission.

    Traffic Impact Analysis of new development – now in effect; required by VDOT; it's on their website. Tries to give separate review of what new development will do to road system; localities don't have to agree & can approve development anyway. Developers want to gut it via the Reform Commission.

    Unfortunately, many reimbursement rates are established in the law; does no good because the Budget Bill passed each year by GA can trump what is in Code. Can cite many examples, so putting road $$ for counties in law is like that swamp bridge you have for sale. Bosun

  20. Larry G Avatar
    Larry G

    Bosun –

    where is the status of these efforts?

    also – the connectivity requirement can and is waived.. apparently.

    I'm aware of the reforms but not the status and I'm also aware of just how long it takes VDOT to achieve completion of these reforms.

    On the reimbursement issue.

    The state DID OFFER a number of counties the ability to levy comprehensive impacts fees in exchange for taking over their roads – the UTSD offer – and most, if not all of them turned it down.

    We need to get VDOT out of the local road business.

    There is much more cost than just subdivision work.

    There is a huge staff and equipment issue also..

    and that's why I asked for a cite of those costs…

    VDOT is STILL the 2nd largest state agency in the State – no?

    If VDOT responsibilities were PRIMARILY – the Interstates and roads of statewide significance, I suspect they would be more the size of the 46 other state DOTs with equivalent missions.

    We have a BUNCH of people in our local District Office – at the same time that the 6yr plan shows virtually no ongoing work for primary and interstate construction.

    VDOT needs to be primarily a contract monitoring agency where the vast majority of the work is done by the private sector.

    We had two local developer roads – built to VDOT specs in 18-24 months – at the same time we have 6yr plan roads that are years…decades "in process".

    Time is money on roads and VDOT roads are decade-long affairs.

  21. Anonymous Avatar

    Mr. Larry,

    Go to here: http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/default.asp

    Scroll down to "Transportation Planning" you will see link to new secondary street standards and functional classification. Within the functional classification page is a link to access managment.

    I am not aware of any waivers under the NEW requirements. If county boards refuse to allow inter-subdivision connection of stub streets, then VDOT will make the connection & take the county's few remaining road $$ and devote to building & maintaining the connection road.

    The 'comprehensive' impact fees to which you refer applied to only those 6 counties above 90K, but C'field could only levy the fee for transportation. The counties would have to establish a special (i.e., extra) tax district for roads and levy an additional real estate tax with the district.

    The 'comprehensive' impact fee would only apply OUTSIDE the special tax district and and only on parcels zoned for agriculture that are being subdivided for by-right residential development; not for 'stale' existing residential zoning outside the special tax district.

    Counties that establish the tax district would be required to assume maintenance responsibility for streets and roads within the service district, but would receive from VDOT the urban maintenance allocation per lane mile (in the range of $9,000 and up to $15,000) for all streets within the district. VDOT would be responsible for building/expanding any new roads.

    Several of the affected counties ran the numbers and pros/cons and found they were better off with the status quo than with partial control.

    Again, they were also worried that as road maintenance cost increased, state payments would decrease and the counties would be expected by the GA to raise the special tax to pay for state-mandated maintenance requirements. Bosun

  22. Larry G Avatar
    Larry G

    here you go Bosun:

    " There will be no road connections with the Kingswood subdivision because the residents don't want it. Instead, a 35-foot buffer zone will split the two developments."

    note the date:


    WHEN will VDOT stop TALKING about the issue and actually IMPLEMENT Functional Classifications?

    How do people KNOW of the status and timeline of this effort?

    I was aware of the UTSD issues and also aware that not a single county went back to the GA to ask for relief for the areas of concern.

    so on one hand.. we have the counties saying they are not getting their money's worth from the State and then when the offered the same as other cities and towns get – they change their minds?

    To date – I have NEVER seen an ACCOUNTING from VDOT on how much gas tax money is collected per county verses how much money is spent by VDOT on that county.

    where on the VDOT website is the accountability for gas taxes collected from each county and how it is spent?

  23. Larry G Avatar
    Larry G

    Bosun – thanks for pointing me to the functional classification info including the county maps!


    but how is this information actually USED by VDOT for programming activities and funds?

    Are funds/resources prioritized according to FC now?

    Are the FCs represented on the 6yr plans?

  24. Anonymous Avatar

    "Traffic Impact Analysis of new development – now in effect; required by VDOT; it's on their website. Tries to give separate review of what new development will do to road system; localities don't have to agree & can approve development anyway. Developers want to gut it via the Reform Commission."

    Amen to that statement.

    The 527 Traffic Impact Analysis requirement forced Fairfax County to deal with the realities of traffic at Tysons Corner and not bow to the big landowners. Despite all of the hollow rhetoric to the contrary, Tysons will generate massive increases in traffic.

    The Task Force simply refused to address traffic, but the 527 law forced Fairfax County to do so and the results confirmed what concerned citizens had been saying for years – the bigger Tysons grows, the more traffic it generates. Let it it grow even by one third and we see hugely expensive road expansion needs, some of which cannot feasibly be afforded or constructed. Let it grow to 84 million square feet, and all of the expensive new road improvements reach the point of failure.

    But for the law, these studies and information would never have been made public. Needless to say, the developers are not happy campers.

    I don't think the developers are still powerful enough to gut the 527 law. Tysons is proving that the days of feudalism might be drawing to a close. Virginia is changing.


  25. Larry G Avatar
    Larry G

    VDOT has made a LOT of changes, many if not most of them for the better.

    There's some interesting Dillon Rule dynamics here.

    functional classifications, access management, subdivision connectivity, and the traffic analysis reviews – are all top-down, right?

    what would happen if those top-down constructs went away and those things were left up to the localities?

    Groveton chafs at the idea that the State "directs" Fairfax but TMT seems thankful that the state keeps Fairfax under control (sort of).

    It an interesting dynamic.

    It appears that the idea of govt that is closest to the people and in theory more accountable – is cold comfort to TMT.

    I think it is pretty easy to criticize VDOT and overlook it's contributions especially in terms of uniform standards and processes…

    I can just see Virginia with more than a 100 different was to go about access management or transportation reviews for instance.

  26. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry – Groveton and I do disagree on the Dillon Rule. I appreciate his perspective, and I think he appreciates mine.

    Here are some reasons why I take some comfort in Judge Dillon's protections.

    A friend of mine is developing some land for sale in Loudoun County, as town homes. His offering sheet indicates each lot carries proffer requirements of more than $42,000. Now I assume the costs underlying that figure are genuine. If not, I could support a challenge. I suspect that in Fairfax County, the proffer target would be no more than $10-12 K, even while Fairfax incurs much greater capital costs when new homes are being built.

    Fairfax County and Loudoun County have approved plans to upgrade Route 28, giving commercial landowners greater density and protections against down-planning in exchange for the landowners paying 75% of the infrastructure costs. Route 28 is a commercial success.

    However, despite this successful plan and broad citizen support, the Fairfax County staff is proposing taxpayers pick up at least 55% of the transportation infrastructure costs for Tysons Corner. One calculation would have taxpayers, including Tysons Corner's competitors, paying 2/3 of the costs.

    Why the difference? I cannot rely on Fairfax Count alone to protect my rights. I like the ability to seek relief from both the County and the State. While I support the grant of additional authority to Fairfax County (for example, I would support legislation allowing the County to include gays and lesbians in its Human Rights ordinance and allowing FCPS to set its own start dates for schools), I wouldn't sleep well if Fairfax County had very broad home rule powers in the area of land use. Had the 527 requirement been optional for Tysons, the County would either have exempted the Comp Plan amendment or prepared a whitewash study.


  27. Larry G Avatar
    Larry G

    Hi TMT – I've posted this before but if you have not read it.. might be worth a read:


    there's a second one by VDOT



    big doc… just go to page 8

  28. Anonymous Avatar

    does anyone on this board really believe that henry, pittsylvania, carroll, and giles county can fund the maintenance of their existing county road networks? the miles of roads in those counties coupled with the small numbers of residents AND the limited taxable value of the real and personal property makes that suggestion laughable at best.

    Sure, Fairfax, Henrico, James City, and a host of Virginia's smallest geographic, but largest property worh counties may be able to pull this model off, but it would leave all of rural Virginia behind the eight ball.

  29. Larry G Avatar
    Larry G

    well what's laughable is all the counties in 45 other states do just that.

    Keep in mind also, that the more urbanized counties ARE WILLING to pay higher gas taxes to improve their roads but the more rural counties – RoVa, in you will, have consistently voted against raising the gas tax in Va and will continue to do so.

    Remember, also, we are not talking about primary roads (state level connectivity) and interstates, but local roads.

    but in terms of accountability – we do not know how much each county generates in gasoline tax and how much money VDOT spends on that county – and we should know.

    Are we implying that VDOT spends MORE in some counties than they generate in gas taxes and less in other counties than they spend in gas taxes?

    A reasonable compromise might be – for the urbanized counties to function like cities and towns in Virginia with respect to their roads.

    Here's a germane quote from " BEYOND THE BYRD ROAD ACT: VDOT’S RELATIONSHIP

    " In most other states, land use regulation and county road functions are typically the
    responsibility of the same entity, a county. But in Virginia, VDOT is responsible for the roads
    and the counties regulate land use. This division of responsibility means that VDOT staff and
    county officials bring quite different perspectives to their working relationship. VDOT interview
    respondents noted a number of ways in which these perspectives of VDOT and the counties may
    One resident engineer commented, “counties don’t think of roads like other infrastructure.”
    He explained that in their decision-making about development, counties may be much more
    concerned about how new development will affect their school enrollments or water than about
    its impact on local roads. More importantly, since they are not responsible for maintaining their
    local roads, urban counties may not consider the maintenance impacts of their development

    This is the problem in Virginia. The development community and like-minded county govt have traditionally viewed VDOT a a giant slush fund to provide whatever infrastructure is required to suit their development plans – even if it is far more than they actually generate in tax revenues.

    The relationship breeds irresponsible decisions at the local level because local elected are able to evade accountability for their land-use decisions by blaming VDOT.

    Back to the title of this thread: "Streamlining State Government".

    Does anyone think that the current dysfunctional approach to development in Va has anything to do with the fact that VDOT is a bloated agency that is broke?

    I do.

    Over and Over, we hear that VDOT maintains the 3rd largest road system in the nation.

    Think about that.

    Virginia is doing what 45 other states don't do – and that is not holding the localities more accountable for their land-use decisions and the consequences are that localities have traditionally viewed VDOT as the equivalent of a development subsidy.

    should we "streamline" this?

    I think it's past time to do this.

    In fact, we really don't have much of a choice if VDOT is going to continue to not have new funding sources.

    It will become the default condition – as evidenced by Mr.Connaughton's advocacy of tolls on the interstate highways.

    A reasonable transition for Virginia and VDOT would be this:

    VDOT will continue to maintain the secondary roads to state standards – but all new county roads will have to be financed by the county including all new commercial and residential development.

    Just set up Transportation Service Districts and go from there – as we are already seeing now in the urbanizing counties.

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