Money for Silver Line leads to name calling

Virginia House Democratic Leader David J. Toscano (D-Charlottesville) responded to the state’s Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton calling legislators and their staff “idiots” in a debate over funds on Metro’s new Silver Line.

Some legislators believe Connaughton is trying to hold back funding for phase 2 of the Silver Line in exchange for more Virginia members being seated on the airports authority board.

But Connaughton says he is not and that Virginia will put in its share of money when an incentive in a pro-union labor agreement is removed.

In a news release Friday, Toscano said: “We cannot afford to lose our civility in our public discourse. These comments do not help.”

He also said the “rhetoric used by members of the House of Delegates and now the Governor’s administration has crossed the line. Our state, once prized for its ability to be reasonable and measured in our debate, continues to have its reputation tarnished.”

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell added an amendment to the state budget that was designed to force the board to seat his two nominees to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board.

The budget runs through June 30 and includes language that directs bond proceeds to the state’s $150 million contribution for the rail project.

Democratic legislators plan to fight the change Monday, when they returned to the state Capitol to take up McDonnell’s nearly 100 budget amendments.

On Thursday, Connaughton said the budget amendment has no bearing on the $150 million the state has said it will give to the second phase of the Silver Line and that he has repeatedly told MWAA officials that.

He called assertions that there is a connection “complete fabrications.”

Connaughton said legislators and legislative staff are wrong. “They don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “They’re idiots.”

Follow me on Twitter @postmetrogirl.

Dana Hedgpeth is a Post reporter, working the early morning, reporting on traffic, crime and other local issues.
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