EVERY VOTER in Virginia who wants significant improvements in the state's transportation system -- who doesn't? -- should make a point of going to the polls next Tuesday to vote "Yes" to two ballot questions on pledge bonds. The proposals have the backing of thoughtful state leaders of both parties, but could suffer costly defeat if Virginians fail to rally in sufficient numbers to approve state constitutional amendment Questions 3 and 4. In fact, two other proposed amendments on different matters -- Questions 1 and 2 -- are worthy of support as well. All four proposals involve sensible financing measures that are important in light of the economic pressures facing Virginia.
Relief from gridlock and other traffic horrors is going to be hard to achieve no matter how much money can be put to work for transportation. But without the pledge bond authorizations motorists in urban and suburban areas as well as regions of the state only now beginning to experience traffic troubles can expect little progress. Pledge bonds are backed by fuel taxes and other designated transportation revenues. Question 3 involves authorization for local governments to issue bonds secured by local revenues other than property taxes for transportation projects. Question 4 involves authorization for the state government to issue such bonds to be secured by the Transportation Trust Fund.
Leaders of a committee urging voter approval of both questions include Wyatt Durrette Jr., the 1985 Republican candidate for governor, and the entire Democratic leadership today: Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, Lt. Gov. Don Beyer and Attorney General Mary Sue Terry. Other committee members include former congressman William Whitehurst of Norfolk; Fairfax County Supervisor Joseph Alexander, former U.S. secretary of transportation William Coleman of McLean; Arlington County Board member Mary Margaret Whipple and various business, labor and law enforcement leaders.
Opponents -- many of them members of Virginia's political Old Guard -- have trotted out the old pay-as-you-go arguments that ignore the concept of sharing project costs over a period of time rather than attempting to soak today's taxpayers for the whole tab, or waiting years to ante up 70 percent of the cost of a project before starting it.
Question 1 would authorize some personal property tax relief for older and disabled people in certain instances. Question 2 would permit proceeds from property seized and forfeited in drug-law violations to be used to promote law enforcement. Both are reasonable proposals. This makes the job easier for advocates of sensible financial management in Virginia: Vote "Yes" to all four statewide ballot questions.