Virginia needs this lockbox

Published 9:11 pm Friday, February 17, 2017

By Georjeane Blumling

For the first time ever, Virginia lawmakers are poised to take the first step toward the passage of a constitutional amendment that would protect transportation funds, dedicated for the commonwealth’s roads and bridges, from being raided and used for other purposes.

On Friday, lawmakers in the Senate considered House Joint Resolution 693, sponsored by Delegate Dave LaRock (R-33rd), which would require that transportation funds be limited to use for transportation and related purposes only.

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The measure has already been approved by the House of Delegates. On Friday, the Senate passed it by for the day.

If the amendment passes the full General Assembly this year, the identical language would be voted on by the General Assembly next year before going to voters as a referendum in the fall of 2018.

The vote this year is critical and if passed and approved by voters in 2018, the  “lock-box” would put an end to historic raids on transportation funds, which resulted in a transportation funding crisis that left Virginia struggling to fund basic maintenance and unable to invest in critical infrastructure.

In 2013, after nearly two decades of inaction, Virginia lawmakers passed a substantial and sustainable transportation funding package that ensures adequate money will be available for the commonwealth’s transportation needs. That is, as long as it used as it was intended.

When transportation funds are taken and used in other areas, our roads and bridges are jeopardized, and public trust erodes. As motorists, we all know the damage to our vehicles that can result from poorly maintained roads. AAA believes that locking transportation money is a natural and critical next step for Virginia.

Failure to properly maintain roads and to invest in improvements and future construction is not just about transportation. Poor roadway systems can impact public safety and the economy.

“Virginia is moving forward with responsible transportation investment, delivering long-needed projects and catching up on deferred maintenance. The time has come to ensure that transportation funding is secure so that we can continue our solid progress providing the infrastructure Virginia needs to improve commerce, safety, and quality of life,” noted Delegate LaRock said.

Amending Virginia’s constitution, however, is not easy. The measure must first pass out of a single General Assembly session. There must then be an intervening election, after which the measure is automatically referred to the next year’s session. It must them successfully pass muster with that group of lawmakers before it goes to the public for a vote.

That means this amendment would be considered by lawmakers in in the 2018 legislative session and, if approved by voters in the fall of 2018, immediately become part of Virginia’s Constitution.

AAA, a strong motorist advocate for over 100 years will continue to work toward that end.

We believe the momentum on this issue this year is a good sign and a solid step towards making a long sought-after constitutional amendment possible. A reliable transportation system is a win-win for all.  It allows people to get to work, school and all destinations safely and efficiently.

Georjeane Blumling is vice president for public affairs at AAA Tidewater Virginia. Email her at