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Posted at 11:45 AM ET, 12/15/2010

McDonnell didn't give Republican legislators a heads-up on transportation plan

By Anita Kumar
Anita Kumar

Gov. Bob McDonnell may have missed an opportunity to unveil his proposal to borrow $2.9 billion over the next three years for roads and bridges with unified Republican support already behind it.

Last week, before unveiling the proposal Thursday afternoon at a transportation conference in Roanoke, his staff did not brief the House and Senate Republican legislative caucuses.

Instead, the governor's office waited until Friday afternoon to send them "talking points" in support of the proposal. But still no briefing. (Privately, a handful of legislators have told us they were upset that they did not get a heads-up).

By then, some of them had already publicly stated their concerns that the state is taking on more debt and that a state committee approved a tweak in the model used to determine the state's annual debt capacity.

"This administration is in constant communication with the members of both parties regarding our policy initiatives,'' McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said. "The transportation proposals from last week came directly from meetings with Republican legislators."

So what do the "talking points" say? The proposal includes no new debt. All this does is "prudently" and "wisely" reorder the use of existing debt. Democrats have no ideas on transportation.

See below for the full list of "talking points:"

"Talking Points" sent to the House and Senate Republicans from the Governor's Office:

One part of the Governor's overall transportation plan calls for putting $4 billion into roads/bridges/transit by the end of the Administration

$1 billion will come from a Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank

Bank funded initially with $150 million from general fund surplus and $250 million from successful VDOT audit.

It will gain an additional $600 million during the Administration from other revenue sources, including government reform initiatives

Up to $1.8 billion will be derived from accelerating the issuance of transportation bonds approved in 2007

$1.1 billion will come from issuing federal GARVEE bonds

This will get projects underway and jobs created at the best moment to build roads in modern Virginia history

Interest rates have never been lower, deals have never been better, and our citizens need the jobs

These are just some of the components of the governor's transportation plan, more will be released in the weeks ahead

Many have questioned the bonding component of these proposals

The Debt Capacity Advisory Committee updated Virginia's debt capacity model last week

These proposals stay within their model

They will NOT increase Virginia's authorized tax supported debt

This is NOT new debt

This plan still keeps Virginia's debt capacity at 5%

VDOT already has the money necessary for debt service, it will not take money away from other general fund spending areas as some have erroneously alleged

All this does is prudently, and wisely, reorder the use of existing debt

In regards to GARVEE bonds, they are federal and do not count against state debt capacity

GARVEE bonds are not new, state has been using them for years

The $1.8 billion in bonding from the 2007 legislative package is existing state debt capacity, already approved

All we are doing is speeding it up to take advantage of historically good deals for road building, and to put our citizens back to work

Doing this will save the state significant money in the years ahead by securing good deals today; this is smart project management

Humorously, but sadly, DPV Chairman Brian Moran and Democratic House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong both blasted the accelerated issuance of those bonds


As Moran said in the Washington Post on the day the legislation passed in April 2007, "Overall, it (the bill and bond package) represents significant progress," said Del. Brian J. Moran (Alexandria), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. "The sum of the plan is greater than the parts...."

So it appears neither Mr. Moran or Mr. Armstrong want to issue bonds to build roads that they voted for and applauded just three short years ago

All that's changed since then is the governor is now a Republican, oh, and we can get road building deals sealed for cheaper than any other time in modern history and get Virginians back to work in a very difficult economy

That's just the definition of partisan politics, and it would be laughable if it weren't so irresponsible

The Democrats have yet to put forward any ideas whatsoever on transportation

We await their input

And we remind them that saying no is not an idea; delaying progress is not a solution

By Anita Kumar  | December 15, 2010; 11:45 AM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar, General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, Robert F. McDonnell, State Senate  
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