Friday, January 20, 2006

Kaine to Support Transportation Tax Increase

Jeff Schapiro and Tyler Whitley with the Richmond Times-Dispatch are reporting that Gov. Timothy M. Kaine will propose increasing the sales tax on motor vehicles and other measures that will raise nearly $1 billion a year in new transportation revenue. "Capitol sources yesterday said Kaine ... favors pushing the tax on motor-vehicle sales from 3 percent to 5 percent, putting it in line with the state's nickel-on-the-dollar sales levy."

It will be interesting to see how the political dynamics play out. Kaine also wants two other things: (1) constitutional protections for the Transportation Trust Fund, to ensure that the money isn't diverted to other purposes, and (2) more power for local governments to block rezoning requests that would stress local transportation systems.

Both of those measures will encounter significant resistance in the General Assembly. The only way he can get them through is by using the tax increase as leverage: "Take the whole package, or you get nothing at all." It will be interesting to see how he positions his proposal in his announcement later today.


At 9:22 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

If local governments only block rezoning requests that would stress local transportation systems the link between land use and transportation is guaranteed to push development farther out where the most road capacity remains.

It will do nothing to alleviate current transportation bottlenecks.

At 8:35 PM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

Ray Hyde: You may well be right about moving more development farther from urbanized areas. On the other hand, there are more counties in Virginia than Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William that are hurting because of development outpacing public facilities and the willingness of taxpayers to fund new facilities that are perceived only to open more places to development. The resistance to large rezoning requests among many boards of supervisors may be broader than many think.

No candidate for public office in Virginia will ever again be as dumb as Jerry Kilgore was when he responded to Tim Kaine by saying that imposing restrictions on development where the roads are overstressed was "anti-business." Moreover, challengers from both parties in 2007 will be comparing incumbents who take big money from the real estate industry to Tom DeLay. The bottom line is that Virginia politics is changing.

The question is: will those heavily invested in development, which includes many not directly in the real estate industry, attempt to prolong the present situation or sit down soon and negotiate something reasonable? There is still considerable room to create a win-win situation among all of the stakeholders. But the office holders of 2008 will either feel more pressure to "be tough" on all development or will be from those groups who are truly anti-development under almost any terms.

At 10:29 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

TMT: I agree.

If you have a school system with ten thousand kids and you get a thousand more, well, that's a ten% problem. If you hava school system with a thousand kids and add a thousand more, that's a 100% problem.

The resistance to new development is everywhere. There are more than 11,000 jurisdictions across the nation with some kind of growth restriction.

So what happens when the resistance is ubiquitous? I guess then we'll have regional planning?

What this is really about is open space. Bacon and EMR would tell you that there are thousands of acres of open space in Fairfax that need to be developed. But open space From Gettysburg to Warrenton or Charlottesville is "hallowed ground" never to be developed.

Right now the only way holders of open space can participate in the wealth creation EMR attributes to the cities is to develop. When they have an alternative to participate that is competititve with what developers offer, we can stop worrying about sprawl.

Instead, we have situation where we are planning to punish them into being landowners, by taking all the value out of the land, and raising their taxes ten fold or more (if you beleive EMR). In addition, we are going to saddle them with all the costs of creating entire new communities from the ground up, for children that aren't theirs.

Sounds pretty fair to me.

At 11:17 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

J lewis published an article in the Post today about "An Opportunity for Truly Smart Growth in Virginia"

In it he says the governors plan focuses too much on what not to do.

True enough. Yet he goes on to say that various new growth management strategies could be developed.

He says "Half the battle could be won if the state simply insisted on timely cooperation and coordination among land-use and transportation planners within a region, and also among regions."

Doesn't this leave out one significant group of stakeholders?

He offers them a nod by saying, "...Virginia home builders, and the governor as well, might support legislation enabling use of transferable development rights."

Well, isn't that just ducky. Large swaths of land have recently been enormously downzoned, for free. aNow they want to come in and buy the remaining "rights". It seems to me that this proposal will put the government in a very sticky ethical situation.

On the one hand we have heard for years the rhetoric about money grubbing land-owners who think it is their birthright to make a killing on the family farm. Now suddenly the government wants to buy rights they previously claimed didn't exist.

Besides, transfer of development rights still means that an enormous state directed transfer of wealth is going to occur. A one-time payment is not going to cut it. If planned development really results in long term cash flow savings to the government, those cash flows are a result of "renting" the vacant land. those people are going to have to get a share of the action, not a buy-out.

And why do they want to do this?

"Under such a system, developers can purchase density rights, granted under existing zoning to a property in a "sending" area, and transfer those density rights to a property in a "receiving" area, where increased density is desired but not permitted under long-standing zoning."

Desired by whom? TMT? An awful lot of zoning is actually not all that longstanding. The present 50 acre zoning around here is a recent artifact compared to the age of the farm. The "long standing" zoning is actually a result of political activity on the part relative newcomers.

Who is going to make and enforce these plans? Lewis doesn't say but "Plans must map out not only transportation networks, but also places for housing, education, health care, shopping, employment, recreation and, equally important, environmental conservation." and he thinks it should be done at the state level.

Guys, Listen. Oregon tried that thirty years ago, and those laws were overturned in a landslide by a peoples referendum - twice. And the reason was because people couldn't plan their own lives, and landowners were getting screwed.

Let's don't go there. Didn't we just spend most of our adult lives watching the prolonged collapse of planned economies?

Lewis has some sense of fairness. About making developers pay for infrastructure, he says "This strategy sounds appealing, but it is basically unfair. It forces new-home buyers, tenants and businesses to pay a disproportionate share of the costs of off-site public infrastructure improvements that are part of a community-wide system serving all citizens, not just the newly arrived." which is a point I have previously made here.

There is a lot that is appealing about this smart growth nonsense. The problem as I see it is that we are nowhere near "smart" enough to know what is smart and what isn't, let alone what is fair and what isn't.

It is all theories.

At 11:29 AM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

An interesting comment from Falls Church city councilman David Snyder, who is also chairman of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. (Wash. Post, 1/22)

"Despite the large amounts and the prospect of more money for the first time in decades, many Northern Virginia transportation advocates said the amounts are not nearly enough.

"'These are positive steps in the right direction but fall short of the funding necessary to really solve Northern Virginia's transportation crisis,' said David F. Snyder, a Falls Church City Council member and chairman of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

"Snyder added that the funds would do little more than maintain 'the current level of poor service.'"

Perhaps, I still suffer from my Midwestern fiscal conservativeness even after all this years in "Disneyland on the Potomac," but $4 billion seems like an awful lot of money to spend and taxes to raise for us not to see any measurable improvement in traffic congestion, at least for whatever amounts are spent in NoVA.

Perhaps, our elected officials should tell us what it would cost us to bring our transportation problems "under control" and define what "under control" means before they raise taxes or commit money for transportation. There may well be a large number of Virginians who would vote not to spend that money.

Moreover, "we've got to do something" is a very poor reason to spend and tax more. Virginians want to see measurable results, not some half-witted plan to spend lots more money, only to revisit the issue in five years and to find that nothing has improved. Keeping the road builders and their employees happy is not high on the list of priorities for many people.

Indeed, the transportation and road-building advocates are making a very strong case for the enactment of very stringent restrictions on development, at least in NoVA. Unless Mr. Snyder is way off base, there's probably sufficient reasons for the state to enact a three-year moratorium on rezoning in NoVA, similar to the three-year moratorium that was approved by the US Supreme Court for Lake Tahoe.

Let's figure out what we would achieve before we throw more money at transportation. To use the old saw, "let's plan our work and then work our plan."


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