Leaders of Virginia’s largest counties are asking legislators who are negotiating the state’s two-year $85 billion budget to remove language
that calls for a study to shift the cost of transportation funding to local governments.
The chairmen of Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun and Chesterfield counties’ boards say the concept of “devolution” would lead to a tax increase.
“Because of the poor state of so many secondary roads and the lack of state funding to localities to upgrade and maintain these roads, our initial financial analysis of devolution shows unequivocally that devolution will require a significant real property tax increase for residents and businesses in our counties,” they wrote in a letter last week.
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) wants the state to study the concept of “devolution,” in which counties would pick up the tab for maintaining secondary roads. Cities already do so.
The House of Delegates included a study in its version of the budget, but the Senate did not. State Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton said he hopes the final budget will include the language.
McDonnell wants the state to study the proposal over the next year and make recommendations to the General Assembly in time for its next regular session in January 2013.
Only four counties are being singled out: Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun and Chesterfield. According to the state, 34 percent of secondary roads are in substandard condition.
It would cost the counties hundreds of millions of dollars to bring the roads up to standard and millions a year to maintain them, they say.
In December, the chairmen of the Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun county boards wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post explaining why the shift would be a bad deal for the state’s most populous region. McDonnell told reporters at that time that he would not give localities responsibility with no money.
“Their fear is they get what the federal government does to us — mandates without money — and I fully understand that,” McDonnell said. “The last thing I want to do is put another unfunded mandate on local government. If we just did a pure devolution with no money, that’s what it would be.”