February 14, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Transportation funding snag

I was encouraged last week by news that the two houses of the Virginia General Assembly have narrowed their differences on transportation funding. As they say, though, "the devil is in the details," and there is one provision in the bill approved by the House of Delegates that really bothers me: It relies upon "$250 million from the state's general fund to pay for road maintenance." House Speaker William J. Howell and Del. Morgan Griffin strongly objected to the Senate's modifications to the funding compromise that would impose registration fees and taxes to make up the difference. See Washington Post. I strongly believe that the transportion infrastructure should be self-funding, not relying upon general revenues, so on this particular issue I am siding with the Senate. Taking money from the general fund may be expedient politically, but it will inevitably rob important programs of their resources. One example is in the area of conservation, and today's News Leader points to Gov. Kaine's $20 million land conservation initiative as a primary victim of budget politics. I think his preschool day care program was totally unwarranted, but I think conserving Virginia's beautiful landscape is a worthy goal. I hope the Republicans can meet him half way on that issue. The Senate's proposed registration fee or a few cents more tax per gallon of gasoline would be a small price to pay for keeping Virginia's fiscal house in order, and its roads in decent condition.