Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) continues to support a Republican proposal to reduce transportation money pending in the U.S. House, despite estimates by some that it could cut funds by 30 percent in Virginia.
The Democratic staff of the U.S. House Transportation Committee estimates that the plan could cost Virginia $340 million and 11,830 jobs in fiscal 2012.
But McDonnell told reporters this week that only a small portion of Virginia’s transportation plan relies on federal funds, and that even with federal cutbacks, Virginia could proceed with its transportation plans.
This year, the General Assembly passed McDonnell's proposal to borrow almost $3 billion for the state's clogged roads over three years, which would help fund 900 projects, including the widening of Interstate 66.
The debt on $1.1 billion in bonds — about $80 million a year — would be diverted from the $800 million a year the state receives in federal highway funds.
Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said he worries that the House bill will cut further into Virginia’s already dwindling federal funds. “That would severely limit future transportation spending and projects in Virginia,’’ he said.
Republicans on the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unveiled a multi-year proposal last week to reauthorize the nation’s highway, highway safety, transit and rail programs. The most recent bill expired in 2009, but the program has operated through extensions.
Democrats in Washington and Richmond denounced the plan to cut $109 billion, saying it would cost 500,000 jobs next year and hurt economic recovery.
“If Governor McDonnell is serious about improving our infrastructure, creating jobs and growing Virginia’s economy, he will condemn this Republican plan and urge members of his own party to preserve federal funding for transportation projects,” said Brian Moran, chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia.
McDonnell said the federal government must cut everywhere, starting with discretionary spending and entitlement reform.
“Republicans and Democrats have overspent, have overpromised. Now the bills are due,’’ he said. “We’ve got record deficits now where there is no end in sight to the deficit spending. I think it’s all a matter of setting priorities.”