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Transportation demands long-term solution

I read with interest the “Other Opinion” of Delegate Chris Jones (April 11, 2006).

I admire Chris for his hard work in the House of Delegates and his representation of his constituents in Suffolk and Chesapeake.

I am especially appreciative of his courage, in the face of severe political consequences, in 2004 to lead the fight in the House for a budget that would serve the needs of Virginians in years to come in delivering the core services demanded of our government.

Much of what he offers about the House 2006-08 budget plan is correct.

However, it is what he doesn’t tell readers that you should be concerned about.

Everyone agrees that the Commonwealth needs about $1 billion a year for the next 20 years to meet our transportation needs.

The House proposal provides about $900 million for fiscal year 2007, but only about $360 million each year thereafter.

The House proposes spending significantly LESS for the following core services than either the Governor’s introduced budget or the Senate’s budget:

* $43 million LESS in constitutionally required deposits to the Rainy Day Fund;

* $55 million LESS for colleges and universities;

* $48 million LESS for teacher salaries;

* $30 million LESS for school construction;

* $40 million LESS for land conservation and water quality improvement, eliminating the Southern Rivers program;

* $16 million LESS for economic development; and,

* $19 million LESS for courts, commonwealth’s attorneys, public defenders, clerks of court and other court costs.

The House transportation plan also depends on $179 million from increased driver fines and fees each year, when fully implemented.

The Senate estimate of those fees is only $48 million.

The hidden shortfall in the House budget is DEBT.

For example, the House proposes to borrow money for $258 million for college and university construction projects, which will result in a 50 percent increase in costs, rather than using some of the cash surplus from the General Fund as the Senate is proposing.

The House wants a special session for transportation only.

That is not unreasonable.

What IS unreasonable is their refusal to commit to finding a sustainable increased revenue stream for transportation without looking to short-term fixes that rely on possible future revenue surpluses in the General Fund.

We need a long-range solution, not another short-term fix.

I am certain that Delegate Jones understands the real problem and the need for a long-term solution.

I hope that he will dedicate his efforts to finding one as the Senate has.