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Monday, May 12, 2008

Bob McDonnell on Kaine's Big Tax Plan

Bill Bolling ripped it, now here is AG McDonnell.

Statement of Attorney General Bob McDonnell on Governor’s Transportation Plan

Richmond- Attorney General Bob McDonnell released the following statement today regarding the Governor’s 2008 transportation plan.

“Virginia’s future prosperity depends upon the Commonwealth having a 21st Century transportation system. Growing up in Fairfax County, and later representing Virginia Beach in the House of Delegates, I have seen firsthand the transportation challenges that we face. I believe it is imperative we modernize and improve the transportation system in the Commonwealth, and I know the Governor believes this as well. While I have worked closely and in agreement with the Governor on many important reforms for our citizens, I cannot support the Governor’s tax and spend philosophy as outlined in his transportation plan.

The Governor did not make his transportation plan available to Republicans until today so I am still reviewing the details. However, it is disappointing that the Governor’s third transportation plan since taking office is basically the same as his first two. Through all the conversations, negotiations, and debate of the past several years, the Governor has continued to rely on his belief in higher taxes with increased spending, going to the same government bureaucracies that have not delivered transportation services efficiently. At the same time, there’s a total absence of innovation, creativity, privatization, and the use of technology to improve transportation. Further, it is unfortunate that the Governor’s plan relies on regressive taxes that place a disproportionate burden on lower and middle-class citizens. This is not the way to improve transportation in Virginia.

What has been absolutely ignored is last year’s historic increase in transportation funding. The General Assembly passed bipartisan legislation that provided for the largest infusion of new statewide funding for transportation in 22 years, and did so without a statewide tax increase. Remarkably, today we hear almost nothing from the Governor about what that plan accomplished. Statewide nearly $560 million a year in new funding, on average, was dedicated to transportation. The bipartisan plan, approved by 85% of the members of the General Assembly, directed that 2/3 of all budget surpluses will go directly to transportation. Thus, based on economic history, there will be much larger future annual deposits to transportation when the economy improves. In years when the Commonwealth sees surpluses of one billion dollars or more, such as in 2005, this would mean hundreds of millions of dollars in additional transportation funding. Last year’s plan also put in place new land use reforms, and accountability measures for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The Governor’s plan announced today gives no indication that this funding has occurred, and contains no creative reform components. Instead, the Governor paints the picture of an empty bank, which must be replenished with higher taxes on Virginians trying to sell their homes, buy new cars, or register their vehicles.

State spending has increased 40% over the past 6 years. That averages out to be $3,369 per Virginia household. In the past 10 years the state budget has doubled. The reliance solely on new taxes in the Governor’s plan reflects a failure to utilize existing resources and to prioritize transportation as a key component of government.

Before the Governor taxes the people of Virginia one cent more I would like to ask the following questions.

Why is there no discussion of increased use of public-private partnerships in the Governor’s plan? Since the revamping of the Virginia Public-Private Transportation Act in 1995, it has been woefully underutilized. Why not let willing private road contractors take more of the financial risk, and, equally, gain more of the financial rewards of building infrastructure in Virginia? Where is the vast new statewide money from last year going? Why does the Governor believe that voters will now trust that money raised by a sales tax increase in Hampton Roads, but sent to Richmond, will actually come back to them in full? With the maintenance deficit and cost overruns being such a concern, why is there no provision to improve the efficiency of VDOT? Why is there no focus on dedicating new revenues to projects with proven ability to relieve congestion? Why are congestion pricing, tolls, and other free-market solutions not being considered?

I’m confident that a bipartisan resolution of these transportation issues can be resolved by the General Assembly and the Governor in this special session. With the dramatic new statewide funding provided for transportation by the General Assembly last year, I hope the focus of this special session will be on addressing the demonstrated specific regional needs in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. There is no justification for a statewide tax increase.

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