Bolling Comments on Statewide Component for 97th District

The 2007 session of the Virginia General Assembly has ended. In the final hours of the session the members of the Senate and House of Delegates took final action on a number of key bills and resolutions. In this week’s edition of The Bolling Report I will bring you up to date on the most important issue considered by the General Assembly this year – transportation. I will report on other issues in a special edition of The Bolling Report next week.

The Senate and House of Delegates have given final approval to the compromise transportation plan offered by Republican legislative leaders. The final version of the transportation plan continues to have a statewide component that will raise an additional $600M a year for highway construction throughout Virginia, and two local option regional plans that will raise additional money for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

The statewide plan calls for transferring $184M a year in general fund revenues to the Transportation Trust Fund. Additional resources would come from a $10 increase in vehicle registration fees; an increase in abusive driver fees; and an increase in registration fees, fines and penalties for heavy trucks. A portion of this money would be used to issue $2.5B in transportation bonds...

For example, Governor Kaine and the State Senate had consistently refused to use existing general fund revenues for transportation. Instead, they wanted to rely solely on higher taxes and fees. It was this differing approach that resulted in the impasse on transportation that occurred in 2006. In an effort to move beyond this impasse Republican legislative leaders decided that a compromise was required, and the transportation plan discussed above is the product of this compromise.

There are many parts of the compromise plan that I like, and other parts that concern me greatly.

On the positive side, many of the key provisions in the statewide plan mirror recommendations I have been making for months.

For example, I like the fact that the statewide plan uses $500M in current budget surpluses for transportation and earmarks 50% of future budget surpluses for transportation.

I also like the fact that the statewide plan transfers $184M in existing general fund revenue resources to the Transportation Trust Fund. In fact, I would have supported a larger general fund transfer for transportation.

Likewise, I do not object to an increase in abusive driver fees, as long as those fees are not retroactively applied; and I do not object to an increase in registration fees for heavy trucks, which cause a great deal of damage to our roads; or an increase in fines and penalties for overweight vehicles.

I also support the responsible use of bonds to help advance critical transportation projects.

In addition, I am very pleased that the statewide plan includes a major emphasis on other issues that are critical to addressing our long term transportation needs. For example:

The plan includes a number of recommendations that will enhance our ability to do a better job linking land use planning with transportation planning.

The plan includes a number of recommendations that will enhance efficiency and effectiveness in the Department of Transportation and enable us to make certain that our transportation dollars are being spent wisely and that transportation projects are coming in on time and on budget.

The plan includes an increased emphasis on rail and mass transit, which is critical to meeting our long term transportation needs; as well as other so called “cultural changes”, such as car pooling, HOV lanes, HOT lanes, telecommuting, staggered working hours, etc.

All things considered, I think the General Assembly did a good job putting the statewide component of the transportation plan together.