Virginia deserves better than this

The Politics Beat column by Chris Graham
freepress2@ntelos.net

One thing we can all agree on – we need to do something about our roads.

Right?

Right?

“With the housing economy the way it is today, I don’t know that adding a new cost is the wisest thing to do,” said Del. Phil Hamilton, R-Newport News, echoing what Republicans across the state had to offer in response to the introduction of the transportation plan unveiled by Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine on Monday.

Don’t believe me?

“With Virginians struggling with home mortgages, car payments and energy costs, they simply cannot afford to pay more,” said Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights.

I can guess what Item #1 in the Republican Talking Points Memo was today. Can you?

One deviation, from House Republican Majority Leader Morgan Griffith: “The governor has the prerogative to call us back into special session and waste the taxpayers’ money if he so has the desire,” Griffith, R-Salem, said.

A positive note there. Eh?

Kaine’s plan for raising a billion dollars annually for transportation maintenance and improvements includes an increase in the existing motor-vehicle sales tax from 3 percent to 4 percent and an increase in the statewide vehicle-registration fee by $10 annually. The plan also includes a 1 percent increase in local sales taxes in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads and a 25-cent increase in the statewide grantor’s tax.

If you ask me, one reason Republicans are so upset with Kaine is that he didn’t include a 10-cent gas-tax hike in his plan as many GOP lawmakers had been saying he would over the weekend.

Left with egg on their face on that point, Republicans in the General Assembly would be otherwise left to defend the indefensible position that we don’t really have a transportation crisis in Virginia.

Having just driven across the state last week on my way to a brief vacation in Virginia Beach, I can speak personally to the basic maintenance needs that exist on the roadways between the Shenandoah Valley and Hampton Roads that obviously have not been addressed since my last trip to the Hampton Roads area two years ago. And that’s not considering the issues with capacity both in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia, much less here in the Valley with the Interstate 81 bottleneck that we’ve been talking big about for the past dozen years, but still have not done the first thing to address.

So …

What are Republicans doing to address the twin maintenance and system-capacity crises?

They’re telling us that the housing economy is heading south, and thus we can’t afford to deal with the problem. And they’re promising to waste the taxpayers’ money in the place of working with the governor to try to craft a solution.

Truth is, they’ve been doing this for years – offering up excuses about why we shouldn’t undertake a systematic solution, and in the meantime delaying the inevitable and making the bill that we will eventually have to pay that much steeper.

Virginia deserves better than this. A lot better.