Kaine Sets Transportation Goals
Last year, when Gov. Tim Kaine offered the biggest transportation program for Virginia in two decades, he bounced off a brick wall of opposition from Republicans in the House of Delegates.
This morning, he told a receptive audience of Northern Virginia's business and civic leaders in Herndon that he's going to take another run at the wall: "I like hard stuff." This time, though, the run probably will take him through the state's elections in November, when his fellow Democrats will run in part on a platform of transportation improvements in their effort to take control of the House and Senate.
Still, Kaine said he was hopeful of success in the General Assembly session that starts in the middle of this month.
He says he wants three things: to improve the performance of the state's transportation department, raise more money for maintenance and new projects and allow government to link land use and transportation planning. And without all three ingredients in the pot, he said, it won't really be soup.
There's real evidence of progress on the first goal, which is largely within the executive's control. The Virginia Department of Transportation is consolidating its maintenance facilities to make operations more efficient and save money. The workforce will be reduced by 1,000.
The second goal is more problematic. While just about everyone in state government talks about a transportation crisis, which sounds very sympathetic, there are fewer who will acknowledge that the problem is so big and the consequences of failure so long-lasting that the government is going to have to spend a lot of money on it.
Kaine says he doesn't want a general tax increase, or an increase in the gas tax to pay for maintenance and construction. The big one he wants is to raise the sales tax on autos from 3 to 5 percent. Right now, most things you buy in Virginia come with a 5 percent sales tax. Cars are an exception. Kaine says tax everything the same and raise more money for transportation services.
He also wants to make the penalties for reckless driving more expensive. Lastly, he'd increase auto registration fees. The $29.50 fee should go up by $15, he said. In 2010, it would go up again to $49.50.
He figures all that would raise more than $800 million a year. Then he'd throw in half of the state's budget surplus each year -- as long as there is a surplus.
The last of the three parts would give government the ability to control development based on whether local roads are adequate. Local governments would have the power to use VDOT's traffic impact statements in their zoning decisions. Meanwhile, the state would get more of a say about what sorts of subdivision streets it has to accept into the road network it must maintain. The new streets must be created in a way to mitigate congestion rather than contribute to it.
What do you think? The part that resonates most strongly with me is his statement that no one element gets travelers where they need to be. You can't just reform VDOT, you can't just spend money, and you can't just reject development proposals.
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