Monday, January 23, 2006

Lock Box Skeptics Emerge

The Washington Post writes this morning about resistance to Gov. Tim Kaine's goal of locking up the transportation trust so others can't dip into its reserves, as they have five times in the past.
'Sen. John H. Chichester (R-Northumberland), who backs a plan that would raise more than $1 billion a year in new revenue, has argued that the money should remain available for the next emergency, or at least be accompanied by a similar measure regarding the state's general fund, the main source of funding for other services, such as education.
"If you're going to lock one, you ought to lock the other," Chichester said. "A constitutional lock on either, however, I perceive as a cluttering of the constitution."
Chichester also said a lock has the potential of tying legislators' hands in years to come.'
Tying their hands is the idea, isn't it? But this is starting to sound like a proposal that will fade to nothing.


At 10:10 AM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee doesn't seem to grasp the difference between "trust funds" and the general fund. Trust funds are special funds dedicated to a specific purpose. Absent a true crisis, a trust fund's proceeds should be protected from use for any other programs. A crisis should declared by a super-majority of both houses of the General Assembly.

A general fund is just that, the basic treasury of state government. Its proceeds should be available for whatever purposes upon which the General Assembly and Governor agree. That's Political Science 101.

Perhaps, the committee chairman should be arguing that the general fund should be segregated into multiple accounts, with at least some accounts given trust fund protection. But that is very different from protecting the general fund against transfers to other accounts.

Moreover, since it is a fundamental principle of American law that the current legislature cannot bind future legislatures, such that enacting a statute to prevent transfers from the transportation fund to other funds can be changed by another session of the GA, there is only one way to protect the transportation trust fund from raids -- a constitutional amendment.

It's pretty clear that many Virginians do not trust the Commonwealth to protect the transportation trust fund against legislative raids and that it would take several years for a constitutional protection to be effective. It's also pretty clear that some interest groups do not want to wait for that protection and want Tim Kaine to walk away from one of his campaign promises -- no transportation tax increases until the constitutional protection is in place. In all fairness to the senators, they did not run for election last fall and are not, therefore, bound by Kaine's pledge.

It seems that the ball is in Tim Kaine's court. Will he stick to his campaign pledge or not? Time will tell.


Post a Comment

<< Home