Legislators who seem to like being stuck in traffic
By Editorial Board,
VIRGINIA’S LEGISLATURE has enacted the most important transportation funding bill in 27 years, a measure bringing billions to fix Northern Virginia’s crumbling roads and horrible traffic. Amazingly, 12 of 40 Northern Virginia lawmakers — nine Republicans and three Democrats — voted against it, thumbing their noses at the first politically feasible solution to rush-hour misery. Here are their names:
In the Senate: Richard H. Black (R-Loudoun); Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria); J. Chapman “Chap” Petersen (D-Fairfax); and Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Fauquier).
In the House of Delegates: Richard L. Anderson (R-Prince William); Mark L. Cole (R-Spotsylvania); Barbara J. Comstock (R-Fairfax); Timothy D. Hugo (R-Fairfax); L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William); Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William); Jackson H. Miller (R-Manassas); David I. Ramadan (R-Loudoun); and Scott A. Surovell (D-Mount Vernon).
In thrall to anti-tax orthodoxy, many Republicans barely bothered to explain their no votes. Most clung to the fantasy that Virginia could cannibalize money for roads from other services, like education. But as Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican, conceded, the state’s budget is already lean, and Democrats would not go along with robbing schools to pay for roads.
Take Ms. Comstock, whose constituents in McLean, Vienna and eastern Loudoun grapple with some of the region’s worst traffic. On her blog, she touts her recent initiatives relating to testing for Lyme disease but devotes not one word to the transportation bill, which will generate more than $1 billion annually for roads and rails.
The Democrats who voted no at least tried to explain their stance, unconvincingly. Mr. Surovell thought the bill generates too little money, but he has no politically doable ideas for generating more. Mr. Ebbin preferred raising the existing gas tax but concedes that was a non-starter. Mr. Petersen offered a laundry list of objections but no ideas for selling a better bill to a majority.
Virtually every lawmaker in Richmond, those who voted for and against, objected to parts of the bill. But the real choice was not between this bill and a better bill. It was between this bill and another year of inaction. As Mr. McDonnell has pointed out, the transportation deficit has already cost the state its standing as the best place in America to do business.
Granted, the transportation bill has warts. It shifts some of the burden of road-building from drivers to shoppers — from the gasoline tax to the sales tax — which is not great policy. It nonsensically imposes a fee on buyers of hybrid vehicles. It soaks heavily congested (and wealthy) Northern Virginia, where regional surtaxes will hit people who sell houses, stay in hotels or shop for most goods (except food).
Combining new fees, taxes and money shifted from existing programs, the bill will generate the revenue the state desperately needs. It’s not perfect. It’s what was possible. Of all people, Northern Virginia lawmakers should have grasped that. Those who did not should be asked to explain during this year’s election campaign.
More on this topic: The Post’s View: Virginia shows Maryland how transportation funding can be done Peter Galuszka: The fever breaks in Virginia — sort of The Post’s View: Solution politics in Virginia The Post’s View: Gov. McDonnell’s pending legacy