Thursday, August 04, 2005

Mo' Money from Washington

A commonly voiced "solution" for Virginia's transportation woes is, if you live in Northern Virginia, to get more money from "Richmond," or, if you live anywhere in Virginia, to get more money from "Washington." It's a message that Virginia's congressional delegation has heeded. Largely overlooked in the press coverage of the latest federal transportation bill, Virginia actually will get a higher share of federal transportation dollars than in past years.

U.S. Senators John Warner and George Allen noted the following in a recent press release:

Known as a “donor state” because of its history of contributing more than it receives in federal highway funds, Virginia has received a 90.5% return on its contributions of federal gas tax dollars over the past six years. The bill passed by the Conference tonight will increase that rate of return annually, ultimately to 92% in FY 2008 and 2009.

In 1998, the last time Congress addressed the funding levels, the Virginia delegation worked to increase Virginia’s return from 79% to the current level of 90.5%.

In a $1 billion-a-year annual allocation, the increase from 90.5% to 92% yields an extra $15 million or so a year. Compared to the $108 billion revenue shortfall forecast in the VTrans2025 study over the next 20 years, the extra federal money is chump change. Sure, it beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, but it falls far short of what our Business As Usual transportation strategy calls for. Squeezing more money out of Uncle Sam won't be easy for an affluent state like Virginia. Unless we're willing to pony up an extra $4 billion to $5 billion a year in taxes, we have no choice but to radically rethink our transportation strategy.


At 8:40 AM, Anonymous SDH4VBT said...

That's a straw man argument, Jim. Nobody is advocating $4 to $5 billion per year in higher transporation spending -- that would be a 100 percent+ increase in state funds. The additional federal funding is helpful, what the GA did this year was helpful, and another $500 million a year -- spent wisely -- would make a huge difference and would allow the state the flexibility to do some things with rail, mass transit, congestion management, freight multi-modal and other approaches beyond traditional road building.

At 11:10 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

A good portion of that shortfall for future years amounts to making up for expenditures we did not make in previous years, so you can hardly call attempting to make up for previous failures in transportation policy "business as usual".

This brings to mind another argument against increasing impact fees or proffers to pay for road improvements. It amounts to having newcomers subsidize the failure of previous residents to pay as they went.


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