Transportation Snow Job in March

Some of Virginia’s biggest snows come in March. Here is a snow job on Transportation. I got a copy of this ‘Dear Friends’ constituent letter from Sen. Marty Williams (R-NN) from fellow constituents. Marty didn’t send me a copy even though he is my State Senator and I’m an elected Republican Party in his district (1-SD). I edited his letter to help him out anyway and, lo and behold, his letter shows up in the Daily Press as an op ed. The Daily Press doesn’t mention that it’s a constituent letter.

(Sen. Williams) March 10, 2006

Dear Friends: I wanted to let you know more about the transportation situation in the Commonwealth and specifically how it affects the residences of Newport News, Hampton, York County and Poquoson. I would also like to take this opportunity to describe why I feel this is a watershed year for transportation in Hampton Roads. December 2006 is a make or break time in Hampton Roads. Before year-end, the Hampton Roads Planning District must submit an updated long-range regional transportation plan. Unless this package includes actual and realistic ways of financing the third crossing, improving U.S. 460 and constructing a second midtown tunnel, the region will lose the federal funding currently in place for these projects. We will also lose $14.6 million dollars in environmental impact studies that will expire and $63 million in current federal earmarks.

(JAB) · What has prevented the HRPD from submitting a plan to date? If the HRPD can’t figure out priorities and come up with a funding plan, then they should all resign. In your Yes! Campaign analysis from 02 (the Great Transportation Tax Scam), it was clear that tolls would pay for most of the Third Crossing. What have you and the HRPD been doing in the past 4 years, besides raising our taxes and trying to raise them more?
· What are the priorities for Tidewater – number them one to n? What is the minimum funding stream each one needs for the next 20 years to keep from losing the sunk costs?
· $14.6m + $63m = $77.6m is a whole lot less than the $2.5 billion plus you want to stick to the Virginia taxpayers. Better to lose the millions than bleed the billions – if the HRPD is so incompetent to force that.

(Sen. Williams) Additionally, without congestion relief, the region will fail to meet federal air quality standards. This means that in addition to the standard yearly safety inspection: 1. All vehicles will be required to have a separate inspection for emissions. The charge for the inspection is $28.00. The failure rate is over 50%, and that rate increases with the age of the car. The average repair bill to bring your automobile into compliance is between $450.00 and $850.00. 2. These inspections will also require that you take additional days off from work or Saturday afternoons away from your family. 3. When we fail to meet federal air quality standards, the penalty is forfeiture of all federal highway dollars to the region. 4. We will then be asking our constituents to pay federal gas taxes and shipping that money off to other regions.

(JAB) · Get serious. Your Yes! Campaign used this same scare tactic in 02. It didn’t work then. What makes you think it will work now?
· Nothing in yours/HRPDs plan reduces congestion. The 02 plan ended up with more congested miles in 20 years than we have now. Building roads doesn’t decrease the miles driven.
· Nothing in your plan actually reduces the miles driven or cars on the road – to reduce pollution. · What per cent of the pollution problem comes from vehicles?

(Sen Williams) These grave conditions are irrefutable. We have letters from the Federal Highway Administration detailing its position on this issue very clearly.

(JAB) · Put the letters on the web.

(Sen Williams) There are very real, very negative consequences for the region. Surely neither you nor I want these things to happen. The solutions that I am supporting have the potential to cost less for the average citizen than the cost you may bare [(JAB) bear] if we do nothing. The actual cost is easy to calculate, but sitting in traffic, consuming fuel and time is somewhat harder to identify. But we know it when we see it. Only an increased dedicated funding source will prevent this from happening. That is why I have offered solutions to our dilemma and I am perfectly willing to compromise with others if they offer real solutions – not temporary band-aids.

(JAB)· Raising taxes isn’t a real solution. Raising taxes kills jobs. The plan you support ( Click on ‘to see a powerpoint summary of each of the proposed tax and transportation plans’) shows on slide 12 – your plan adds 8405 government jobs in year one and KILLS 5805 private sector jobs in year one. Then, magically in this analysis, it gets better in 4 years. Taxes are called killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

(Sen Williams) I have received encouragement from some of my constituents to support the House plan. I should not do that when I know, for a fact that the House plan does not move Hampton Roads 1 step toward avoiding these grave consequences. The House plan issues over $8oo million in new debt to free up money for Transportation. If we endorse borrowing money when times are this good, what in the world will we do when we arrive at an inevitable recession?

(JAB) · You supported the billions in huge bond issues on the ballot for education and the environment. What is different that made that debt good and this debt bad?
· When revenues decrease in the inevitable recession you cut spending. See, the government gets its money from the People. When they suffer during a recession the Government gets less money. There is only one economy to take money from.
· If you think the current level of spending is untenable in the future, then cut back now.

(Sen Williams) The issue of slowing traffic to collect a toll is also a real concern for many of you. Let me assure you that I would never support erecting barriers to traffic in our major thoroughfares. Tolling today is not a traditional toll both. Technology is in place today that identifies by electronic signal and photographs all vehicles using the facilities. And Yes! we have the ability to bill all users including out of state travelers for the toll fee. There will also be a system in place to recognize commuters and bill them at a much lower rate. These concepts are real and being used all over the world right now.

(JAB) · Tolls make sense. Agreed.
· There are other things like private-partnerships, tax exemptions for telecommuting, mass transit, etc. not including in the Senate ‘plan’. · Fix VDOT. Read the House plan to see how to do it. How much was the overrun for the interchange on I-64 you sponsored? How long was the overrun? What was the cost in wasted time, accidents for that interchange to profit the Hampton City ‘Power Plant’ boondoggle?

(Sen Williams) My job as a legislator is to try and offer solutions. So far the best and only true solution to this problem is the plan put forward by the Senate of Virginia. Again I stand ready to compromise with anyone offering a real solution for my constituents. The Senate plan does not raid funds from sources traditionally spent on education, law enforcement and health care and shift them to road building. This reduces the chance that transportation funding will be forced to compete with other core services—a situation where transportation always loses.

(JAB) · This is just false. The House budget (with no tax increase) has a $2.4b in additional spending for education. The House spending for the environment is the same as the Senate’s. The House budget increases spending on Public Safety $446m. Quit crying “Wolf!” about phony spending cuts. Democrats do that.
· Again, the money for all reasons comes from the same source – the taxpayers. All money competes with all money for the budget – unless legislators are incapable of setting priorities – like every family and business in the Commonwealth do when – especially when you raise our taxes.
· Why did you vote for those budgets that raided the Transportation Trust Fund? You moved the money meant for transportation to other purposes. Take responsibility for your actions.

(Sen Williams) This is a prudent, responsible pay-as-you-go approach. The plan does not rely on debt. This keeps transportation from further driving the Commonwealth’s spending for debt service (one of the fastest growing parts of the budget) and avoids Washington D.C. type deficit spending that the House plan embraces.

(JAB) · This is a tax-as-you-go. You were elected in 95. Republicans won the majority in the GA in 97. What have you been doing other than trying to raise our taxes (02), raising our taxes (04), and planning to raise our taxes (06)? This is Washington tax and spend – Virginia can’t do deficit spending – read our Constitution.
· You and other Republicans raided the Transportation Trust Fund.
· You and other Republicans have failed to offer anything in 9 years.
· Didn’t you just pull back your own bill to have tolls across the James River to pay for most of the Third Crossing?
· Where is the plan for that crossing? Why hasn’t the HRPD made a decision for so many years?

(Sen. Williams) I know this debate will continue over the next few weeks and compromise positions may appear that will more fully embrace your particular position on this issue. I also am not naive enough to think my solution is the only one. If someone can show me a plan that solves this enormous problem without revenue enhancements you can bet I will be more than supportive. So far no plans that even begin to move Hampton Roads forward without new revenue have been disclosed. I am ready to negotiate those compromises. It is my job to work diligently to find solutions for the real problems that confront my constituents. If you have any thoughts on this subject please contact me at (757) 599-8683.

(JAB) · It is wrong to raise our taxes because you failed for 9 years to establish priorities, fund them properly and come up with plans that actually work to reduce congestion and pollution.

Sincerely, Senator Marty Williams

And very sincerely, James Atticus Bowden

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12 responses to “Transportation Snow Job in March”

  1. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “The 02 plan ended up with more congested miles in 20 years than we have now. Building roads doesn’t decrease the miles driven.”

    That doesn’t strike me as a good argument. We are not buying or building roads to create (or necessarily to reduce) congested miles but to provide throughput that has economic value. Whether one plan is better than another depends on how much total throughput, how much cost per throughput, and how much inferior product (congestion) per throughput.

    “Nothing in your plan actually reduces the miles driven or cars on the road – to reduce pollution.”

    Reducing miles driven may not reduce pollution, if the plan is one that creates more congestion. Reducing the number of cars on the road will definitely reduce pollution from cars, but it may not reduce pollution overall.

    “What per cent of the pollution problem comes from vehicles? “

    “Point sources”—especially the electricity-generating plants in the area that burn coal, oil, or natural gas—account for 30 percent of the nitrogen oxides and 4 percent of the VOCs.

    • “Area sources”—including gasoline stations, oil spills, residential furnaces, bakeries, dry cleaners, consumer products, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and backyard grills—contribute 9 percent of the nitrogen oxides and 43 percent of the VOCs.

    • Off-road vehicles—from bulldozers and other heavy construction equipment to the mobile lounges at Dulles Airport—account for 14 percent of the nitrogen oxides and 20 percent of the VOCs.

    • The thousands of cars, trucks, and buses that have made Washington the second most congested metropolitan area in the country contribute the rest—47 percent of nitrogen oxides and 33 percent of VOCs.

    One of the more surprising aspects of air pollution is the impact of small gasoline engines, especially lawn mowers. Running a lawn mower for 30 minutes is worse than driving an average car 200 miles

    A $9-billion investment in the 103-mile Metrorail system [which] registers 625,000 trips each weekday…. But Metro’s route system, based on commuting patterns in and out of DC that were more common in the 1950s, does not match the circular flow of travel inspired now by suburban office parks.” Washingtonian

    “Raising taxes kills jobs.”

    OK, so does inadequate infrastructure, where is the tradeoff.

    “It is wrong to raise our taxes because you failed for 9 years to establish priorities, fund them properly and come up with plans that actually work to reduce congestion and pollution.”

    In the face of increasing population and economy what makes you think there is any plan that will reduce congestion and pollution without killing jobs or inducing a recession? It seems to me that you are setting a standard that is frankly impossible.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear JAB,

    You need to be more sincere in argumentation before you sign off “very sincerely”. You state correctly that taxes can kill the goose that lays the golden egg. They can. But how do you “know” that? Either you “know” this or you are just “hyping” your side of the story here. Knowledge comes from careful study and the STAMP model and its results appear to be just such a careful study.

    That study correctly shows the economic intuition we all know. As taxes go up to fund needed infrastructure, private sector jobs may be shed in the initial years. But then you leave your books and wave your hands and apparently lose your mind.

    The study then shows how the highly productive “investment” in infrastructure pays great dividends in the next years. 16,000 total new jobs are created and you dismiss this as “magic”. It is not magic. It is economics and capitalism at work as modelled through a computable general equilibrium.

    This model was built by conservatives with a Reagon free market mindset. Taxes have consequences. But in this experiment, the investment in infrastructure has far different effects from taxes simply dumped into the general fund. Taxes used for high rate of return projects yield high rates of return.

    You can wave your hands all you want and chant medieval slogans about magic, but the only magic here is the magic of the market.

  3. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Ray: Thanks for the great facts on pollution. Glad for data. The problem with congestion is that Marty Williams is trying to say the taxes will reduce pollution to pass the EPA regional standards. They won’t. The tax,spend and pour concrete folks have argued that they will reduce congestion. Maybe you don’t, but they do.

    I’ve never seen a stat on how many jobs are lost because of x minutes delay in traffic. The tolerance (demand curve for jobs) seems pretty steep in NoVa.

    There are workable plans that don’t require tax hikes (tolls but no other new taxes). In Hampton Roads you could build the train and truck connection from the Port to 460 to go up the Southside and not dump traffic on I64. That would help with congestion. You can add tunnels across the Hampton Roads crossing. That helps.

    You can see if you can do a private public partnership for expansion of 1-64 up The Peninsula.

    You can provide corporate tax credits for telecommuting. Etc.

    Anon: I know from my graduate studies in Economics that $150m in taxes kills 5000 jobs – at least.

    The STAMP model is bogus if it imputes private sector job growth in 4 years – when not one mile of road has been built – as taxes are sucking more money out of the economy. Something is wrong there.

    The general rule is a tax dollar puts 23 cents in the economy – tops (More Grad School econ, not medieval chanting). If you think road building is an outlier that produces more – I’d like to see the number and the study. It sure won’t produce it in 4 years. 10,302 of the jobs (from the 16k) you cite are GOVERNMENT jobs. Not a Republican, free market thing to do.

    Look at the House plan if believe in the magic of the market. Job growth every year.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    Anon seeks knowledge: How do you know from your graduate studies in Economics “that $150m in taxes kills 5000 jobs – at least?” Who says so and where? What type of taxes and what was the revenue used for? I’ll it was not on infrastructure or you would not have that result. More below.

    You assert without any evidence,”The STAMP model is bogus if it imputes private sector job growth in 4 years.” They have a general equilibrium model and you have assertion here. In science, they win. In assertion, you’re ahead.

    You assert: “If you think road building is an outlier that produces more – I’d like to see the number and the study.” In fact, it is not an outlier. It is a common elasticity that can be found in the transportation literature. I’m sure they have it embedded in their model. You assert that it must be bogus out of hand.

    Do you see a pattern here? You are the one making assertions without evidence and you may be the one that needs to find those numbers before lobbing bombs. I think you will find that their model is pretty decent if you would care to look.

  5. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Anon: I don’t remember the source for the factoid on taxes and jobs. You can look it up. Herman K. Bator was the professor for Macro-economics. If one looks at the taxes – as many things are – as a normal distribution of different taxes, then the distinctions you make are moot. The fact is that in a general model (the Bator Bedsheet Model for GDP) the taking of taxes reduces capital. Capital grows capital. Government uses capital inefficiently and the return is poor. Ask the PhDs in econ – Jim Miller, Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, etc. Are you denying that taxes kill jobs and that the sun rises in the East?

    I looked the STAMP model and posted about it. They say there is 10k government job growth (makes sense for a tax and spend program) and about 6k private sector growth -which seems screwy. Which is why I suggested a PhD economist from Heritage Foundation – who run Macro models – look at it in more detail. The deletrious effects (loss of jobs) of over $1b being sucked out of the economy every year for 4 years far outweigh the return in government contracting that might boost private employment. And since NO roads will be built in that time frame – then there can’t be any economic effect creating jobs from the roads.

    Assertions without evidence? Lobbing bombs? No, just stating economic facts.

    What is the margin of error for a klugged together model from different states using pre-04 tax data from Virginia?

  6. Ray Hyde Avatar

    JAB: I mostly, but not entirely agree with you. I think we don’t know anywhere near enough to make real arguments based on facts, so we are reduced to making political arguments.

    Political arguments, in turn, are based on our individual, life-long, collections of anecdotal evidence, aphorisms, parental teaching, and experience. If we are lucky there will be some actual knowlege and observation thrown in as well.

    Anecdotally, there is plenty of evidence that people in DC and NOVA are throwing in the towel, but we don’t know what the job elasticity is. There are recent entries in several blogs discussing when it is time to get out, and a letter to the editor in a recent Post.

    I’m skeptical of the STAMP model, and also of the MWCUG transportation model, precisely because they have political origins. These black boxes are going to need years of validation, and a lot more understanding before they are accepted. When Lotus 123 first came out, I had a boss who would work up a financial sheet on his calculator, and ask me to put in 123. After I did that, he would frequently tell me it was wrong, only to find out that the sheet was right and he had made a mistake in his calulations. For months, I would take him stuff, and he would cross check it on his calculator. By the time ayear had passed, his calculator was retired.

    As a society, we are going to have to go through something similar, before we can trust our knowlege over our dogma.

    Anybody know what a Kluge is?

    Kluge was a german manufacturer of printing presses. They were characterized by an amazing assortment of cams and bell cranks and suction tubes that inked the type, handled the paper, and actuated the press. If you ever saw one operate, they were mesmerizing in their complexity.

    They were also highly accurate. You could set it up to print a single postage stamp at a time. Just because it is a Kluge, doesn’t mean it isn’t good.

  7. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Ray: I agree except that economic laws, like physical laws, aren’t up for discussion unless one wants to challenge rational empiricism – and some Liberals, like their Marxists cousins – do.

    Thanks for the info on the Kluge. That was great. It has the connotation of disparate things forced to work together – perhaps well or perhaps not.

  8. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I’m not sure I follow you on rational empiricism.

    By economic laws, I think you mean things like supply and demand, taxes kill jobs, net economic benefit, etc.

    We can argue there are increasing costs associated with an increasingly dirty environment, and there are increasing costs with making it increasingly clean. Where the lines cross is the best economic benefit.

    Thats an economic law, as I see it.
    But now if one person argues we should spend money to reduce one pollutant and somebody else would rather spend the same money to reduce their farvorite pollutant, then how do we know how best to spend the available money, and still get the best economic benefit?

    Isn’t that where we cross over from economic laws to rational empiricism. Doesn’t RE boil down to what works best, given what we’ve got?

  9. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    We agree on econ laws.

    By rational empiricism I am talking about how we expand the fields of knowledge – not politics or pride or prejudices.

    I taught research and methodology for the social sciences years ago. When I speak of RE I’m talking about how we begin from an empirical – testable – basis of agreement and build on it with rational inquiry – again testable study. It’s how we expand the basis of knowledge in all fields.

    Rational empiricism is how we know what we know.

  10. Ray Hyde Avatar

    That is what I thought you were saying.

    I agree. We should put our theories to the test before we launch off on some unproven, and expensive, theories about what should be done.

    I’ve been holding forth here on the idea that we ought to look at what is really happening, and make plans accordingly. Rational Empiricism, if you will.

    If we make plans according to what some would like to happen, as opposed to what is happening, then we are more likely to fail.

    Today in the Post we learn that the exurbs are growing faster than ever, while at the same time planners are set on approving the Metro West project in order to increase density there, in spite of opposition. DC is losing population, and the inner suburbs are not growing as fast as previously. DC is now considering eminent domain to follow through on its plan to increase density in improve the neighborhood, in spite of local opposition.

    What would Rational Empiricism say?
    Is anybody listening?

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    You are real adept at whining and complaining but fall far short on anything constructive. If this is what Blogging is then I want little to do with it. It appears, though you are not at all clear on what you actually support, that you think the House Plan is the best option but I wonder if you really have a grasp on all the plan entails. I don’t want more taxes, nor do I support the Senate Plan, but I do not want the added debt and inadequate funding the House proposes. Much easier to sit on the sidelines like an armchair quarter back and throw out criticism than to actually propose real solutions. I won’t visit this site again. I think being a conservative republican means more than complaining and requires effort towards real solutions. Reading your comments was a total waste of brain power.

  12. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Alas, Anon 2:26, we hardly knew ye.

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