Wednesday, December 19, 2007

House GOP to restore $180 million in transportation funding raided by Kaine budget

Transportation Chair Joe May Says Kaine Budget “Built at the Expense of Roads”

RICHMOND, VA – Delegate Joe T. May (R-Loudoun), incoming Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, today decried the proposed reduction of funding dedicated to transportation in the budget proposed by the administration of Governor Timothy M. Kaine. The budget unveiled by the Kaine Administration on Monday diverts $180 million currently appropriated for transportation.

“Governor Kaine has introduced a budget that moves transportation a little closer to the back burner, where it sat for far too long,” declared Delegate May. “House Republicans fought aggressively for years to make transportation a top priority of the Commonwealth, and we’re not going to pass a budget that is built at the expense of roads and to the detriment of Virginians who depend on them.

“The Governor’s plan takes $180 million we committed to transportation in the current fiscal year budget. Money designated, allocated, and committed to transportation needs to stay there. The Administration has proposed using these funds for other budgetary purposes – not other transportation projects – and has replaced them with a promise to put the money back when revenues are more robust. Virginians have been stuck in traffic for years waiting in vain for promises ‘to put the money back’ to be kept before. They recognize what this plan is, and they know it will likely keep them stuck in traffic longer.

“The funding dedicated to transportation in 2007 is critical to the construction of key projects across the Commonwealth, including improvements to Route 50 in Northern Virginia, portions of Route 58 across Southside and Southwest Virginia, and improvements to Interstate 64/264 in Hampton Roads. The schedules for these projects are predicated on the availability of the funding appropriated for them in the current budget. Under the Governor’s proposal, if revenue growth doesn’t double in 2010, money will not be available to proceed on schedule.”

May also wondered when the Kaine Administration would fully explain the effects on the regional transportation plans – which include a $10 annual inspection fee designated for the regional transportation authorities – of its proposal to increase the fee for state vehicle inspections while reducing the frequency of those inspections. “The Governor has yet to explain how Northern Virginia will make up more than $16 million and Hampton Roads more than $12 million in regional transportation revenues every other year because of his change to the state vehicle inspection policy,” noted May. “It was no easy thing getting these plans approved in the first place, and now Governor Kaine and his allies are endangering regional transportation funding with scant notice and little explanation. Our commuters deserve better.”

House Republicans spearheaded the landmark Transportation Funding and Reform Act of 2007, the largest transportation initiative since the General Assembly held a special session on the core service in 1986.

“The Governor tries to claim that these funds remain in his budget, only now they’re not available until 2010 – when he leaves office,” remarked Delegate Lacey E. Putney, incoming Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “Even more cynical is the Governor’s promise to restore these funds in 2010 based on exceedingly optimistic revenue assumptions. Fiscal responsibility dictates that we cannot count on such windfalls, and a responsible budget should never be constructed assuming them. The fact that the Governor broke his promise and takes the $180 million now does not lend any comfort that he will keep his promise to restore the money later.

“Regardless of how the Administration characterizes it, the facts remain the same. The current budget has $180 million dedicated to transportation funding this year that will not be available for that purpose until at least 2010 should the Administration’s proposal be approved. And, repayment at that time is contingent upon robust revenue growth when the Commonwealth is facing uncertain economic times. House Republicans remain steadfast not only in our belief that transportation is a core service of government but in our commitment to keep transportation as a top priority. I am confident that the budget crafted by the House Appropriations Committee will restore the $180 million to transportation.”

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