Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Potts Transportation Plan

Independent gubernatorial candidate H. Russell Potts Jr. proposes spending $2 billion more a year for road and rail projects, and he'd pay for it through a combination of tax increases, some interstate tolls and public-private partnerships, says today's Washington Post. Potts is going to formally unveil his transportation plan tomorrow.

"Potts's plan would pump billions of dollars into initiatives including extending Metrorail to Dulles, widening Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway and building a third crossing of the Chesapeake Bay in Hampton Roads. It stops short of endorsing specific forms of tax and fee increases and does not call for an immediate increase in the state's 17 1/2 -cent gas tax. For fiscal 2006, the transportation budget is $4.1 billion, a quarter of which is federal funds."

Is this going to get him up to 15 percent?

4 Comments:

At 9:17 AM, Anonymous sdh4vbt said...

When the Post reporter called me Friday he did mention specific revenue sources Potts is proposing, including a toll package similar to the Baliles proposal, a whole penny added on to the sales tax, a $1 hike in the tobacco tax, an increase in the motor vehicle sales tax and a surcharge tax on low-mpg vehicles. The details will come out tomorrow but that struck me as MORE than $2 billion annually. It will get many, many lobbyists fully employed should be he be around to introduce it as governor -- including lobbyists for other major government programs who will worry transportation will eat into their stash during a Potts term. The sales tax is traditionally tied to education and the tobacco tax is now closely tied to Medicaid.

Conspicuously absent from his plan? Any change in the motor fuels taxes and license fees, the traditional transportation sources.

But it does match income with promises. Russ may soon find out it is possible to have too much detail -- although controversy and attention work to his overall advantage possibly.

 
At 1:54 PM, Blogger Jim Bacon said...

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At 1:57 PM, Blogger Jim Bacon said...

So, Russ Potts wants to raise $2 billion a year in taxes to offset a projected $108 billion revenue shortfall -- an average of $5.4 billion a year -- over the next 20 years.

Potts has to confront one of two possibilities. Either (1) his $2 billion will fall far short of needs within a few years, triggering the need for a massive follow-up tax increase, or (2) his plan simply applies window dressing to a problem that will continue to grow worse, providing less than 40 percent of what the VTrans 2025 plan says is needed over the next 20 years.

The Potts plan is intellectually bankrupt. It provides no solution, only a short-term palliative, which, if he's honest, will only slow the rate at which traffic congestion gets worse. The fact is, as currently structured, Virginia transportation policy is fiscally and politically unsustainable. It is time for a radical rethinking of how Virginians achieve access and mobility.

 
At 9:19 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Didn't we just go through that? Haven't you already argued that the 108 Billion shortfall is maybe only half of that? so instead of 5.4 billion a year its only 2.7?

I'll take 2 billion as a down payment against a 2.7 billion problem as opposed to waiting fifty years for functional patterns of development to whittle 20% off the eventual problem.

Maybe.

That is if the unproven hypothesis that we can reduce travel through land use management ever works out to be true, and if we can agree on how to do it.

If that happens then a good portion of that extra .7 billion might not be needed, eventually.

What is intellectually bankrupt is arguing both sides of the issue against the opponent of the moment.

I can't stand Russ Potts and I'm all for radically rethinking how we deal with access and mobility, but I can't think of a reason to knock Potts because his plan only solves 40% of next years problem, if the alternative is to spend next year thinking about radical changes. Especially since you have already argued that his plan really solves 80% of the problem in your Bacon's Rebellion article.

How are we going to rethink access and mobility? The present four tier models were started in the 1970's. There is pretty clear consensus that the models don't work, and we haven't got the data we need to run them. They don't work because research in other fields has shown us that the problem is far more complex than we imagined.

But imagine the models were fixed tomorrow, and we had all the data we need to run them (which we don't) It might take 20 or 30 years of observation in the real world to validate the models to find out if they work. Then we could perturb the models with your theories and see if they are predicted to work. Without a validated model, we can't even begin to test your ideas.

If that happened we would still have to reach a consensus on what policies that the model predict will work are actually acceptable.



The choice, then, is to spend money as Russ Potts suggests, and maybe we solve between 30% and 80% of the problem, depending on which argument you are making today, or,
we can sit around and think about radical changes. We can buy some partial relief, or we can buy a pig in a poke. On an installment plan that takes 30 years to make the first payment.

In the meantime, we can continue to spend additional time and gas in traffic, still more money trying to make transit do what it cannot, and still more money on multimillion dollar bike trails, and pedestrian friendly feel-goods. That is the plan that is fiscally and politically unsustainable, because it has no provable results.

Then of course, we might get thirty years down the road and again find out the models don't work. We don't have a clue what the long term solution is, partially because we can be sure the rules will change. In the meantime, we are stuck with short term solutions, even if we know they are only 80% solutions.

I suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, about which we know almost nothing, other than some treatmentw are palliative. I would love for people to think of a radical solution, but in the meantime I'm going to take expensive medication that gives me
80% relief, even though I know it is not a cure.

I'd like to think you plans will cure all our ills, but if I'm FDA you are going to have to show up with a plan that says "Here is what I need to spend, and here is who is going to foot the bill. Here is the procedure I want to run, and here is how I'm going to measure the results. At the end, here are the criteria that judge whether the results constitute a success."

You don't have any of those things and Potts has only two: here is how much I will spend, and who will foot the bill.

 

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