Kaine Pushes Bonds To Cut Bay Pollution
Thursday, December 14, 2006
RICHMOND, Dec. 13 -- Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) said Wednesday that he wants to borrow $250 million to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, a proposal that immediately became entangled in a dispute over transportation funding that is heating up before the General Assembly returns next month.
Under Kaine's plan, Virginia would combine $250 million from a bond issue with $300 million in already appropriated general funds to pay for upgrading as many as 89 wastewater treatment plants. He said that would put the state on track to meet its goal of reducing nutrient and nitrogen runoff originating from human and animal waste.
Virginia, the District and Maryland pledged in 2000 to greatly reduce the waste that enters the bay by 2010. Although state officials say that Virginia probably won't meet the goal, it could come close if the General Assembly approves Kaine's spending plan.
"The package I announce today . . . will give us the ability to demonstrate our commitment to the bay," Kaine said. "The amount from last year and this amount added to it will get us a long way toward the goal."
Kaine will unveil his amendments to the two-year budget Friday. Wednesday's announcement became part of the debate over how the state should pay for its transportation needs, estimated at $17 billion in Northern Virginia alone.
Kaine and the Republican-controlled state Senate have opposed plans to rely heavily on bonds, which are repaid over several years, to finance transportation projects. Kaine and Senate Republicans instead presented a plan earlier this year to raise taxes, which House Republicans rejected, to help guarantee the long-term revenue stream for road construction projects.
Republican leaders in the General Assembly said Wednesday that they were generally supportive of the concept of issuing bonds for the bay cleanup, although some senators said Kaine has to come up with a way to repay the bonds.
But House Republican leaders said Kaine's bond financing proposal renews their argument that Virginia can borrow more money to start building roads.
"I think [Kaine] is on shaky ground if he is against bonds for transportation but for them for other things," said Del. Vincent F. Callahan Jr. (R-Fairfax), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Eight other House Republicans from Northern Virginia said Wednesday that they will revive their push to use bonds to pay for transportation projects.
Kevin Hall, a Kaine spokesman, said there is a difference between borrowing money to protect the environment and fixing the state's road system.
"Sewage upgrade projects have a definite start and a definite finish, and there is no open-ended financial commitment. The same can't be said for roads," Hall said. "After spending most of the past year saying no to every idea, these guys continue to pitch the political equivalent of a payday loan, with no responsible way to pay it back over the long term."