DURING THEIR campaigns for state office this fall, politicians in Virginia from both sides of their political divide talked about the need for major transportation spending. But now that the voting is done and the lawmakers are good for at least one new term each, how willing will they be to raise substantial new revenues for roads? Gov. Gilmore's no-tax-increase-on-my-watch stand won't swerve an inch. His only tax concession to the constantly clogged regions of the state is a go-tax-yourselves offer: If a locality were to vote for a specific transportation tax, he might be willing to look the other way.
It may come to that. Yet even if the sentiment is there in some parts of Northern Virginia, for example, coordinating the balloting and earmarking the proceeds will be no mean feat. Enormous injections of state aid will be needed, no matter what--and here is where a new alliance of businesses from around the state hopes to make a difference. A coalition, created by chambers of commerce from Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond and Roanoke, is geared up to rally 10,000 companies and 1.5 million workers behind a push for significant increases in state transportation spending.
James W. Dyke Jr., head of the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, and his counterparts have said the movement will be nonpartisan, statewide and strong in message: Lawmakers who do not help may be targets of "consequential politics," meaning withdrawn financial contributions. If transportation money talks, then a lack of campaign money can too.
Getting a response from Richmond shouldn't have to take such tough actions. The degree of urgency ought to be clear. The governor's own transportation commission is recommending more spending. But if the blunt message of these businesses inspires a solid commitment of state money, all of Virginia should benefit.