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.