The Real Aim of Virginia's Transpo Deal
Should Gov. Tim Kaine take the Republican deal on transportation, or should he veto the bill and let voters decide this fall what they want to do about traffic and the commuting nightmare they face each day?
My colleague Steve Pearlstein argues that Kaine should swallow some of his pride and give up the Democratic strategy of charging into this fall's elections with his party presenting itself as the only true guardian of Virginians' time. Pearlstein writes that northern Virginia will be better off making its own way, taxing itself for the improvements it needs in roads and transit, rather than waiting for the big payday from Richmond that will never come. The bill now before Kaine would give localities the power to fix their own roads, levy taxes for that purpose, and free taxpayers in the rest of the state from the burden of easing congestion in northern Virginia, which they generally resent and loathe.
Sounds reasonable enough, except for a couple of things: Transportation is generally a state responsibility all across the country, for a good reason. States can much more easily afford the huge costs of building roads and transit lines, and states, as larger entities, are better able to coordinate regional planning for roads. Spreading the cost of big projects over a much larger population not only makes good economic sense, it's also much more fair.
But there's another thing going on in this whole political battle, and it's being revealed right now as legislators head home and try to sell this package to their constituents. Let's visit Martinsville, Va., way down in the south-central part of the state, near North Carolina. There, Delegate Morgan Griffith let down his hair while talking to the local chamber of commerce: The Republican legislator told the local crowd that the whole purpose of this transportation package is to make sure that rural roads get built and rural interests are protected before those urban folks up in northern Virginia take over the legislature and the state, which is a demographic inevitability.
Read it for yourself and see: What the Republicans in Richmond are publicly billing as a helping hand for northern Virginia is really a last-ditch attempt to maintain the power and money-allocating sway of rural areas that they know they'll eventually lose to the D.C. and Hampton Roads regions.
Kaine needs to veto this transportation deal so that a more equitable arrangement can be made in the next session, so that Virginia can fulfill its responsibility to give NoVa its fair share of state resources, so that state politicians cannot get away with laying the financial burden on a handful of localities, and so that the generally more parochial interests of local elected officials do not end up making transportation decisions that might make sense for, say, Loudoun or Fairfax counties, but not for the Washington region as a whole.
Tear up that bill, Gov. Kaine.
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