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Posted at 10:59 AM ET, 09/24/2010

McDonnell's VDOT pots of gold

By Peter Galuszka

Like a leprechaun, Robert F. McDonnell has found his pots of gold.

An audit of the Virginia Department of Transportation shows more than $1 billion in unspent money, allowing the Republican governor to crow about government mismanagement and toss some dirt the way of his predecessor, Timothy Kaine, who happens to be head of the national Democratic Party on the eve of important midterm elections.

In announcing the results of a 150-page audit by the Richmond accounting firm of Cherry, Bekaert and Holland, McDonnell bemoaned that the money was sitting around while average Virginians were sitting around in congested traffic. Kaine responded that squirreling away nearly six months worth of rainy-day money reflects prudence, not incompetence, on his part.

Therein lies a curious flip-flop in values.

McDonnell very much wants to position himself for future office as a tight-spending, ultra-frugal, anti-government politician. He came into office with a script, written by Republican governors in states such as Michigan, as a streamliner, reformer and privatizer. But the VDOT audit shows a few inconsistencies:

  • If Kaine put away that much -- perhaps, too much -- money, doesn't that show that a Democrat can be frugal, too?
  • If there are more than a billion unspent bucks in VDOT's budget, why is there such urgency in selling off the state's ABC stores, presumably to get desperately needed money for the state's roads?
  • Where is the windfall going to go? It could be that it ends up as the state's cash portion for a big privatization project to build a new superhighway from Interstate 95 in Petersburg along U.S. 460 to Tidewater. That's McDonnell's pet project, but he needs state cash to make it work.

In any event, Kaine may draw criticism for being too frugal. That's a strange charge coming from a limited-government Republican.

Only nine months into his term, McDonnell has had his share of missteps, from offshore oil drilling to forgetting about slavery to being overshadowed by aggressive, hard-right attorney general Kenneth Cuccinelli. He really wants to be seen as a reformer. Being inconsistent about his philosophy won't help him.

Peter Galuszka blogs at Bacon's Rebellion. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Peter Galuszka  | September 24, 2010; 10:59 AM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Local blog network, Va. Politics, Virginia, development, economy, energy, environment, taxes, traffic, transportation  
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Next: The money in VDOT's mattress

Comments

Increasing Venues for Alcohol from 332 to 1000 and taxing restaurants and bars to fund roads and construction is wrong. You raise taxes on Gasoline to fund roads and transportation. What a Beavis and Butthead McDonnell and Cuccinelli have proven to be.

California group says Virginia ABC effort driven by alcohol industry

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/virginiapolitics/2010/09/california_group_says_virginia.html

“..efforts to deregulate are being pushed by the alcohol industry, in an effort to boost profits.”

Virginia may add to fees on alcohol

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/03/AR2010090306173.html

“Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), scrambling to make ends meet in his plan to privatize Virginia's 332 state-run liquor stores, is considering adding a fee on alcoholic drinks sold in restaurants and bars to help make up the $250 million in annual taxes and profits that state stores currently generate”

McDonnell is the only governor I know who can take a $230~$250 million/year in revenue stream because of Virginia’s ABC stores bulk purchasing power “in Virginia, where whiskey and every other kind of liquor is sold in state-run stores, more than $13 of the retail price goes to the state.“; and turn it from a $2.5 Billion Plus in 10 years, to a negative within one year.

Thank McDonnell for a liquor store on every corner. That will fill the streets with DUIs and violence and the jails with the unfortunate drunks of McDonnell’s lazy and misplaced policies. Private prisons and alcohol abuse will get a boon while worker productivity, real estate values, and society peace will go down as Jack Daniels and Jim Beam in every grocery and convenience store make their skid marks.

Posted by: Airborne82 | September 24, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Some Questions
Certain professional politicians would have you believe that there is a crying need to increase your taxes to provide for new transportation projects. Many Virginians and other travelers will also recall the physical discomfort they experienced last year as they drove past one Virginia rest stop after another closed to “save money” as part of an emergency effort to solve the financial crisis. Hey, it hurt, but we all have to do our part, don’t we?


Well, it turns out that it was all 100% unnecessary. No one needed to be laid off, the rest stops could have continued to function and the grass mowed. Indeed, there was enough money to literally gold plate every toilet in the entire Virginia transportation system. The money, amounting to as much as $900,000,000 in some media reports, was apparently sitting in different accounts controlled by the Virginia Department of Transportation, doing nothing. This situation should lead the astute reader/voter, regardless of party affiliation, to ask a few, simple questions, for example:

1. Was the Secretary of Transportation aware of this situation? If no, why not? We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars, not spare change or a simple oversight. If he was unaware of these hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, he was completely incompetent. If yes, why did he force the draconian cuts? Was it just a disingenuous ploy intended to gin up a false argument to raise taxes?

2. If just one Department in the Commonwealth’s government had an “extra” $900,000,000, how much extra money is sloshing round the other departments?

3. Does any Virginian politician from any party have the intestinal fortitude to introduce legislation to require the State or local governments to undergo through, professional, nonpartisan audits before pressing for either tax increases or draconian budget cuts?

In Alexandria, can any politician of either party look us in the eye and tell us about the “ dire need” to increase our taxes, such as the proposed Commercial real estate piggy back tax, when this sort of dishonesty is in play, especially since they just raised our taxes only to find a couple of extra million kicking around our City Government?

Posted by: BudMiller | September 24, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

The numbers on the sale of the ABC stores don't add up. The gov claims he can get the 500 mill, still bring in the same amount of revenue, and not raise taxes on liquor. If you believe this I have some magic beans I would like to sell you.

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