Tim Kaine Proposes Fewer $$$ for Highway Construction

Those of you in NOVA who thought that rail to Dulles would suck away all transportation dollars and put a stop to new highway construction, you must love Tim Kaine’s new transportation proposal. Thanks to Del. Tim Hugo for catching this one during the debate sponsored by the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce earlier this week, as this has not been reported in any press accounts I have seen.

Here’s what Tim Kaine had to say on transportation:

“A couple of things on mass transit. I believe the state funding formulas are such that they should be adjusted so that public and mass transit options receive the same subsidy percentages as road projects.”

So if you thought that insufficient funds are now being expended for highway construction, under a Kaine administration even less money will be made available for this purpose. So even though less than about 13% of all commuters are using any form of mass transit, Tim Kaine is prepared to more than triple the money available for mass transit at the expense of highway construction.

According to Del. Hugo, the current breakdown from the Transportation Trust fund is as follows: 14.7% of the revenues get set aside for mass transit while 78.7% get set aside for highway construction. Under a Kaine administration, both mass transit and highway construction would equally receive 46.7%.

If you thought we’re facing a gridlock now, wait and see what happens under a Kaine administration!

And what about our rural communities? They won’t get any money for mass transit, while their allocation of highway construction dollars would be reduced significantly.

Does any of this make sense? It obviously does to Tim Kaine—which goes to show how much out-of-touch he is with Virginia’s needs and priorities.

To be fair about this, I’m also not thrilled about Jerry Kilgore’s transportation plan. The Regional Transportation Authorities proposed by Jerry Kilgore make sense from the perspective of local planning, but they’re a terrible idea because Kilgore is talking about giving them independent taxing authority. It’s mind-boggling that a self-proclaimed fiscal conservative candidate—one who purportedly believes in lower taxes and smaller government—would advocate giving unelected and unaccounted bureaucrats taxing authority. Go figure…

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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Phil, you’re way off base. Way off. That’s not what Kaine was saying at all, and to anyone who knows a reasonable amount about Virginia transportation funding (clearly not Jerry Kilgore or his staff), it was obvious what Tim was talking about.

    The Washington Post blog (link) clarifies this nicely: “The Jerry Kilgore press operation jumped the gun today, launching a swift attack on Tim Kaine for saying he wanted to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in road funds and use it for transit instead.

    “Except, that’s not what Kaine said.

    “The confusion began, frankly, with Kaine. At the debate, he made the following statement:

    “‘A couple of things on mass transit. I believe the state funding formulas are such that they should be adjusted so that public and mass transit options receive the same subsidy percentages as road projects. As planners deal with growth in their communities and they try to choose what is the best way to let people move around, right now we give a higher subsidy for road construction than we do for public transit. I want to even it out so that we’re always making the best planning decision.’ …

    “Kaine, in fact, was advocating a change in an obscure provision in state law which gives local governments an incentive to widen roads rather than invest in, say, a new bus route. He was talking about adjusting the subsidies to make the incentives work better.”

    If Kaine is guilty of anything, it’s talking over the heads of you, Jerry Kilgore, his entire staff, and Del. Hugo.

    Here’s what’s going on here: Jerry Kilgore got killed in that debate – humiliated. People laughed at him. He attacked the debate moderator. That made him look dumber. So then his staff set about trying to find something in Kaine’s debate performance to cause controversy about so that they could draw attention away from Kilgore’s total and complete failure.

    If the Post is any indication, this is just one more dumb move on the Kilgore campaign’s part – another little humiliation to add to the growing list that is taking Kilgore’s credibility down a deep, deep hole. When he finishes wiping the egg off his face, he’ll see how far he’s fallen.

  2. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Now that the frenzy has begun there is little room for rational discussion, but when I read Kaine’s proposal I also concluded that the spin I saw from Not Larry Sabato was wrong. I didn’t know that Wampler had jumped in till I saw today’s clips. I should probably stay out of this, but…

    Let’s give a rough illustration. I admit I oversimplify. Say you are a county planner working on a new subdivision. It might make sense to run a bus line out there, but if you do, the state will provide only a partial subsidy. However for a secondary road the state pays all the cost of building and maintaining the road.

    The transit advocates, and smart growth advocates, complain about this all the time. Kaine is clearly trying to attract them, and in Northern Virginia that is not without some logic. This is the kind of flaw in our current system Bacon loves to rail about.

    What can be done is either to (1) increase the state subsidy to 100 percent on transit or (2) require localities to pay a share of new secondary roads. Both level the incentives for making a choice. Right now the incentive is totally toward roads.

    The first option might change the funding split, but not by a huge amount. There will still be many cases where the winner is roads. That has been the focus of the criticism so far, but it’s probably overblown. The idea that hundreds of millions would shift is wrong.

    The second option, requring localities to pick up a share of the cost of secondary roads — that’s the approach that will cause some serious heartburn, especially in Wampler’s region.

    This is worthy of debate, just like all the stuff about illegals, but after Labor Day its time to just duck. And it is more proof that the transportation debate is taking on an edge because everybody is fighting over a piece of a rapidly shrinking pie.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Most brilliant comment in quite a while:
    “This is worthy of debate, just like all the stuff about illegals, but after Labor Day its time to just duck.”

    Ah yes, just when the public tunes in and starts caring about public policy, the CW for candidates is to dumb things down and duck. I don’t argue with your point one bit, it’s entirely accurate. And, I think it is a shame. The voters CAN handle complexity, far more than pollsters give them credit for most of the time.

  4. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Steve: Thanks for the info. I didn’t know the details. Changing the formulas makes sense. Details are deciding – always.

    The pie of spending is expanding not decreasing based on increased taxes. It is decreasing only if you add up all the promises Kaine and Kilgore have made as being real.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Is anyone keeping a running tally on the campaign promises of the candidates? This would be a fun chart for everyone to see. And people wonder why government expands?

  6. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    “Shrinking pie” is a bit of hyperbole on my part (no!) but (1)gas tax revenues are likely to actually shrink in response to prices and (2) even if revenue stabilizes it is being eroded by inflation and (3) maintenance is taking a larger percentage each year. The money available for construction and new transit programs is a shrinking pie.

    Anonymous: the advice to duck was personal. It’s us policy fans who tend to like to argue and reason and admit there is truth on both sides, or our favorite candidate might be a bit off base, who have little chance of survival in this partisan-charged environment.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    I should think it would have been obvious that, no matter what Kaine said, he couldn’t possibly have wanted to completely level the spending. Surely the Washington Post has telephone service? Or is this another case where the post tried to call and couldn’t reach the Kaine people?

    But it is wrong to suggest that increasing the local subsidy for mass transit won’t lower the amount of money for roads. Because it obviously will, UNLESS we increase spending to cover the increased subsidies for mass transit.

    It may make sense for the state to subsidize roads more than mass transit. I’ll discuss this in the abstract since I don’t have any actual cases. Suppose a county wants to spend money to get people from one end of the county to the other.

    If they do it with buses, it will only benefit the people of the county. But if they build a road, that road can also be used by people in surrounding counties to cross the county.

    The state would have an interest in building a road which helps multiple counties, rather than a bus which only helps the people in one county.

    If a bus is the correct solution for a county, the county can pay for it. The state should not subsidise ANYTHING that doesn’t benefit people across county lines. And if that means that the state cuts a billion out of payments to localities, the state can cut a billion in state taxes, and allow the counties to raise a billion.

    Then the counties can spend the money on what they think is important, rather than on things that the state will subsidize.

    Charles R.

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    Picked this up over on Commonwealth Conservative this morning: Not sure I’d have my kickoff at the “Do-Little Country Club” but Del. Cole’s comments very interesting:

    “Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore, lieutenant governor hopeful Bill Bolling, attorney general nominee Bob McDonnell and Del. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William, joined Cole on the stage of the Do-Little Farm Country Club in Stafford County. About 150 people packed into the stuffy dance barn to hear the Republican team espouse the virtues of lower taxes and limited government.

    In a short interview yesterday, Cole said his top priority if re-elected will be transportation. Specifically, he wants to rewrite the state’s transportation funding formulas, which he argues hurt Fredericksburg and Northern Virginia by siphoning transportation dollars to sparsely populated rural areas.”

    Calling William Wampler, Calling William Wampler…All those would be experts on funding formula who surfaced last week want to comment on this one?

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