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Cruise control: Virginia needs reliable funds for the roads ahead page 3
Virginia legislature, like our roads, in gridlock

RICHARD AMRHINE
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Date published: 3/19/2006

By Richard Amrhine

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Gov. Tim Kaine's top priority in calling for this tax increase is to provide funds dedicated to the specific purpose of transportation. Virginia has fallen into the routine of letting the cyclical nature of the economy dictate its spending habits. Funding for such things as transportation, education, the environment, and state employee pay are governed by whether there is money available.

Of course not all of these things should be treated as entitlements. But as roads and bridges crumble under bumper-to-bumper traffic, taxpayers want, and should expect to pay for, guaranteed improvements. It is a safety issue, as well.

The House transportation plan would be more like business as usual. It would generate $500 million a year for four years and relies more on rounding up funds from other key sources rather than increasing Virginians' tax bite. Such funds are easier to find when economic times are good.

It is impossible for the state to meet its responsibilities from year to year if its agencies can't count on the money being there. No bureaucracy was built to turn on a dime. No wonder transportation officials are accused of being wasteful when so much money is spent slowing down and accelerating the behemoth agency.

A year ago, lawmakers--led by Speaker Howell--created a fund dedicated to the Chesapeake Bay recovery program. They guaranteed at least $50 million a year for the next 10 years. Although a much greater outlay is needed, the move was hailed for the consistent funding it provides.

Virginia is among the richest states in the nation. It should be able to do what it needs to do.

Richard Amrhine is a writer and editor for The Free Lance-Star.


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