Democrats rip into McDonnell $4B transportation debt plan

Gov. Bob McDonnell says he can pump $4 billion into road, transit and rail projects over the next three years. The governor’s Democratic Party critics say McDonnell is playing a political shell game.

“A mere month after an election when the voters said we must stop deficit spending, Bob McDonnell has announced a multi-billion-dollar deficit spending plan to fund transportation. Unfortunately this is just the latest in a long line of irresponsible and half-baked ideas that fail to address our core problem of generating a long-term sustainable source of funding for our transportation needs,” House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong said in a statement on the McDonnell plan, which was detailed by the governor in a speech in Roanoke on Thursday.

“This package will get projects underway, and Virginians will see the results all across the Commonwealth,” McDonnell said in his remarks to the Governor’s Transportation Conference, going over his proposal to dedicate $150 million from the projected 2010-2012 biennial budget surplus along with audit funds and an aggressive schedule of bond issues approaching $1.8 billion in total in the McDonnell gubernatorial term.

“These transportation proposals are designed to speed up projects, and to maximize taxpayer dollars to the greatest extent possible. It will play a major role in driving the economic vitality of Virginia and getting our citizens back to work,” said McDonnell, whose office included in a press release listing the justifications for the spending proposals a curious item for a fiscal-conservative Republican who has spoken out against the Democratic efforts at stimulus at the federal level – that for every $100 million spent on highway construction, it is estimated 3,000 jobs are created or supported.

“We have already, in just the first six months of this fiscal year, advertised almost double the amount of road work as during this same time period last year. By putting $4 billion into transportation over the next three years we will continue that progress, and get more Virginians back to work in the process,” McDonnell said.

State Democratic leaders have been pushing for a roads fix for years. Their issue in the aftermath of the remarks from McDonnell isn’t with the commitment to moving Virginia’s transportation system forward, but rather in the approach that includes a substantial amount of public debt.

“This plan would lead to a dangerous explosion in public IOUs at a time when Virginia taxpayers already spend more in debt-service than we spend on sheriff’s offices,” Democratic Party of Virginia chairman Brian Moran said. “At a time when our state budget is already perilously balanced on the backs of Virginia’s retirees, we simply can’t afford for the governor to float a reckless and irresponsible plan to pay for his priorities by borrowing money that we don’t have and cannot pay back without raising taxes. The people of this Commonwealth deserve better leadership than this Jim Gilmore-type financing scheme.”

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at

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