McDonnell wants to borrow $3 billion for transportation needs
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell announced Thursday that he will ask the legislature to spend $400 million immediately on roads and bridges while borrowing an additional $2.9 billion over the next three years for transportation.
McDonnell wants to spend $150 million from last year's budget surplus and $250 million recouped from an audit of the Virginia Department of Transportation, as well as issue two bonds totaling $2.8 billion.
"Over the past two decades, state support for transportation has not kept up with our growth as a Commonwealth. This has led to more congestion, longer commutes and missed economic opportunities,'' McDonnell said. "That trend must be reversed, and this is the time to do it. By putting $4 billion into transportation over the next three years, we will continue that progress, and get more Virginians back to work in the process.''
McDonnell will make a full proposal to the General Assembly on all his budget amendments Dec. 17. The General Assembly returns for its 46-day session Jan. 12.
McDonnell, the state's first Republican governor in eight years, has repeatedly pledged not to raise taxes. He said he will propose an additional $600 million for transportation over the next three years -- some of which would come from government reform initiatives, including his proposal to privatize the state's liquor stores.
He said he will support a constitutional amendment to permanently protect the transportation funding allocated to the Commonwealth Transportation Fund from transfers to the general fund, which pays for core services such as education, public safety and mental health.
Virginia has struggled over where to find money for its infrastructure, with Democrats and Republicans at odds over raising taxes or finding other ways to raise money. The state's transportation budget shortfall, in the billions, has led to thousands of job cuts and hundreds of unfinished projects.
Despite making transportation a top priority during the 2009 campaign, McDonnell did not propose a fix during this year's legislative session. As a candidate, McDonnell vowed to tackle transportation immediately and said he would propose ways to fund transportation "at some point during his first year."
During his campaign, McDonnell announced a lengthy plan to pay for Virginia's growing list of traffic woes without raising taxes -- privatizing liquor sales, adding tolls on Interstates 85 and 95, starting offshore oil drilling and setting aside a portion of sales tax collections in Northern Virginia to pay for regional projects. He said his proposal would generate about $1.5 billion a year over 10 years, but critics accused him of diverting money from schools and other core services.
McDonnell repeatedly criticized his Democratic opponent, state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (Bath), for failing to introduce a detailed transportation plan and instead pledging to establish a bipartisan commission to reach consensus on the issue.
McDonnell said his four top priorities for the 46-day legislative session will be to create jobs, make college more affordable and accessible and reform government, which includes his controversial proposal to sell the state's liquor stores.
| December 9, 2010; 3:59 PM ET
Categories: Anita Kumar, Robert F. McDonnell, Transportation
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