Kaine Outlines Growth Controls to Legislature
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
RICHMOND, Jan. 16 -- Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine on Monday proposed new controls on development to a legislative audience that appears increasingly willing to consider such ideas to ease traffic. But Kaine left unanswered major questions about how to pay for costly road and rail projects.
In a 37-minute speech to the General Assembly, Kaine (D) proposed giving local governments more power to slow growth, require traffic studies and coordinate with transportation planners. Reprising a popular line from his 2005 campaign speeches, he said money alone would not clear roads.
"Over the long term, the most important single change we can make is to reform the way we plan at both the state and local levels," he said. "We cannot allow uncoordinated development to overwhelm our roads and infrastructure."
Speaking in the temporary chambers of the House of Delegates, where lawmakers are gathering while the Capitol is renovated, Kaine avoided the politically sensitive issue of whether taxes should rise to pay for road and transit projects. He promised a transportation investment plan by Monday, when amendments to the state's two-year budget are due.
His growth proposals have riled home builders and real estate agents, who immediately announced a "housing blitz" on Richmond for Tuesday. More than 200 of their members are scheduled to visit lawmakers at their offices to remind them of the dangers of halting development.
"That's the death of our industry's growth," said Mike Toalson, the chief lobbyist for the home builders. "We urge the House not to fall for these populist, so-called quick fixes."
But lawmakers in both parties, including many who have sided with developers in past years, say they recognize the popular appeal of growth controls.
Senior House Republicans are developing their own package of bills aimed at giving rapidly growing communities the ability to manage construction. One bill would expand the number of counties that can demand cash from developers to ease the impact of new homes.
"I don't think [Kaine] will find us a monolithic wall of resistance," said Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem). "If there is a war, it will not be one based on partisanship but rather on philosophy of government or region."
Senators, too, plan to offer legislation to address growth and development as part of their proposal to create a continuing source of money for transportation projects.
"You have to have some sort of long-range planning with our local governing bodies, so our system is not overwhelmed as soon as you build it," said Sen. Charles R. Hawkins (R-Pittsylvania), who led a Senate-sponsored study last year on transportation needs.
Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) said: "These are two issues that have to be linked. Anyone who looks at poll results and anyone who wants to win political office in suburban Virginia has to start looking at this issue."