Transportation lock box would protect Virginia roads funds
For the first time ever, Virginia lawmakers are poised to take the first step towards the passage of a constitutional amendment that would protect transportation funds, dedicated for the commonwealth’s roads and bridges, from being raided and used for other purposes. On Friday, lawmakers in the Senate will vote on House Joint Resolution 693 (Delegate LaRock) which requires that transportation funds be limited to use for transportation and related purposes only. The measure has already been approved by the House of Delegates.
If the amendment passes the full General Assembly this year, the identical language would be voted on by the General Assembly next year before going to voters as a referendum in the fall of 2018. The vote this year is critical and if passed and approved by voters in 2018, the “lock-box” would put an end to historic raids on transportation funds which resulted in a transportation funding crisis that left VA struggling to fund basic maintenance and unable to invest in critical infrastructure.
In 2013, after nearly two decades of inaction, Virginia lawmakers passed a substantial and sustainable transportation funding package which ensures that adequate money will be available for the commonwealth’s transportation needs. That is, as long as it used as it was intended! “When transportation funds are taken and used in other areas, our roads and bridges are jeopardized and public trust erodes. As motorists, we all know the damage to our vehicles that can result from poorly-maintained roads. AAA believes that locking transportation money is a natural and critical next step for Virginia,” said Martha Mitchell Meade, Manager Public and Government Affairs for AAA.
Failure to properly maintain roads and to invest in improvements and future construction is not just about transportation. Poor roadway systems can impact public safety and the economy. “Virginia is moving forward with responsible transportation investment, delivering long-needed projects and catching up on deferred maintenance. The time has come to ensure that transportation funding is secure so that we can continue our solid progress providing the infrastructure Virginia needs to improve commerce, safety, and quality of life,” noted Delegate Dave A. LaRock, the resolution’s chief patron.
Senator Jill Holtzman Vogel, Chairwoman of the powerful Senate Privileges and Elections Committee also believes in the effort. “I support this bill and urge my colleagues to pass it. The bill protects transportation and infrastructure funding from diversion to projects of lesser importance. It will ensure that adequate funding remains available to serve the needs of Virginia’s drivers for years to come,” the Senator said.
Amending Virginia’s constitution, however, is not easy. The measure must first pass out of a single general assembly session. There must then be an intervening election after which the measure is automatically referred to the next year’s session. It must them successfully pass muster with that group of lawmakers before it goes to the public for a vote. That means this amendment would be considered by lawmakers in in the 2018 legislative session and, if approved by voters in the fall of 2018, immediately become part of Virginia’s Constitution.
AAA, a strong motorist advocate for over 100 years will continue to work toward that end. “AAA believes that the momentum on this issue this year is a good sign and a solid step towards making a long sought after constitutional amendment possible,” added Meade. “A reliable transportation system is a win-win for all. It allows people to get to work, school and all destinations safely and efficiently.” Meade concluded.