in Wednesday's Washington Post, there is an op ed by Virginia Democratic candidate for governor Creigh Deeds on what is the key issue for both Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, transportation. In offering this op ed, Deeds will, in the eyes of some, be taking a risk, because he forthrightly acknowledges that the only way to address Virginia's transportation crisis (and as a Virginia, trust me, it is a crisis) will be with a dedicated source of funding - in otherwords, Deeds is now on record as supporting taxes dedicated to transportation.
You can read the editorial, which has the title My Transportation Plan
Below the fold I will explore it a bit, and offer some analysis.
Deeds notes forthrightly
Our transportation infrastructure is crumbling around us. More than 4,000 bridges are structurally deficient, we can't keep up with basic maintenance of roads, and there is almost no state money for new road construction or rail and transit improvements.
He reminds readers of the reality:
The last time Virginia passed meaningful transportation funding was in 1986, under Gov. Gerald Baliles (D), who created a commission to provide recommendations and build support for financing. Since then, each time a governor has presented a proposal to the General Assembly to raise meaningful transportation revenue, it has failed.
He is blunt about money:
All funding options are on the table except taking money from education and other obligations met by Virginia's general fund.
Let me make an excursus. Bob McDonnell has offered two suggestions for how he would pay for transportation. One would be to sell the state's system of liquor stores, for what he expects would be $500 million. Even were he able to get that much (and I have seen nothing that indicates what price might be achieved), it is a one-time shot that (a) removes a flow of revenue to the state; (b) makes a relatively small dent in the backlog of transportation projects; and (c) will not satisfy the Federal government that the state is finally establishing a dependable source of revenue for the state share, a lack which is already costing Virginia the loss of significant federal funds that would otherwise flow to the state for highways, bridges, etc.
McDonnell's other idea would be to transfer funds from the general fund. There are several problems with this idea. First, the largest uses for the general fund, as Deeds notes, go 45.9% to education; 24.2% to health and human resources, and 11.1% to public safety. And, as Deeds notes, not only does he not support such an approach,
Ineither will the General Assembly. Republicans and Democrats are on record opposing McDonnell's funding proposals.
The next, brief paragraph, may be the killer statement of this campaign:
McDonnell's idea of using general funds for transportation is not new. In 2007, an editorial in the Daily Press of Hampton Roads said that McDonnell urged "the General Assembly to exploit the gap in state road funding as a rationale for reducing state spending on education, public safety, health care and conservation. That such an ideological purpose lies behind the Republican transportation proposal has been implied all along. McDonnell made it explicit."
There are those in the Deeds camp who think the focus should be entirely on McDonnell's thesis, and the new information - about how McDonnell therein references Coburn's chief of staff who said at the value voters summit that all pornography turns people into homosexuals and urges people using that as an argument in dealing with 11 year old boys, not only was posted on a variety of blogs today, including here by lowkell, but Rachel just explored the issue on her show.
Still, while that focus may give some people a reason to hesitate to vote for McDonnell, it does not provide a reason to vote FOR Deeds.
I know that Creigh feels strongly about this issue. I have talked about it with him on more than one occasion. I am delighted to see him step up so clearly.
Yes, I suspect the Republicans will now try to pound on him by telling voters he wants to raise their taxes.
But the reality is that there is no other way to pay for long overdue transportation improvement AND MAINTENANCE of existing structures. The Commonwealth simply lacks the resources.
As Attorney General McDonnell provided an opinion that said that separate taxes voted on within NoVa and Hampton Roads would be a constitutional way of addressing the two most critical areas. The State Supreme Court did not agree.
I also remind people that the Washington Post, which endorsed Deeds in the primary and seems to be leaning in his direction for the general, has been critical of him not specifying how he would pay for transportation. I suspect that this op ed will give the editorial board what they have been seeking as the grounds for a strong pro-Deeds endorsement. That potentially can make a major difference among independent voters in NoVa, which in this case extends as far South as Fredericksburg and as far West as the Blue Ridge, which demarcates the Piedmont from The Valley, as we call the Shenandoah so badly devasted by Sheridan's Cavalry.
I also suspect it will play well in Hampton Roads, which is desperate for transportation improvements. Which is why that when Creigh is governor, he should be able to get votes in support of a funding plan from Republicans both in Nova and in Hampton Roads, and thus give him the bipartisan backing he seeks.
The race is not over. Debates remain. More campaign ads from both sides. The election is still 10 weeks away, which in politics is a lifetime.
But for this Virginia voter, who has supported Creigh since early May, when he was still a distant third in the primary race, it confirms what I said when I endorsed him. I believed then, and believe now, he would be the best governor. This op ed illustrates why I feel that way. It is thoughtful, honest, and responsible to the needs of the Commonwealth.
Some criticize those who run for Virginia Governor as being on their way to something else, since we do not allow consecutive terms. We have seen Chuck Robb, George Allen and Mark Warner move on to the Senate, and Jim Gilmore assay foolish attempts first for the Republican nomination for president and then to oppose Mark Warner for the Senate, failing miserably at both.
Creigh is totally dedicated to Virginia. I could even imagine him returning to the General Assembly after serving as Governor, his dedication is so strong.
And I am confident that like the man to whose administration he refers, Gerald Baliles, he has no interest in "higher office" that would take him away from the Commonwealth he loves and is dedicating to serving.
I hope you will consider going to his website and giving support, financial always being welcome, and volunteering if you can.
Thanks for reading.