kcolc.JPGWhat a pointless couple of days we just spent in Richmond! You’ll recall that during the Regular Session That Would Not Die, it was suggested that the way to deal with the Commonwealth’s transportation woes was to decouple the issue from the budget process and go into a special session devoted solely to transportation. So we did. And what did we get out of it? Bupkis.

Here’s what we’re left with at the end of the Road to Nowhere:

  • There was consensus among four of the five institutional players — House Democrats, Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans, and the Governor — that any fix had to include a component that addressed our needs on a long term, statewide basis. In order to move from conceptual agreement to actual legislation, you need a bill bouncing back between the two chambers to talk about. On Tuesday, the fifth players — House Republicans — killed off the only discussion vehicle before us, SB 5013.
  • Additionally, four of the five agreed generally that the critical transportation needs of the two most populous and congested corners of the state — Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads — had to be addressed separately through regional authorities. Once again, on Tuesday the Fifth Horsemen — House Republicans — shot down a couple of vehicles the Senate had sent over to us, SB 5016 and SB 5014. For good measure, they turned on their own, deep-sixing  HB 5056, a good-faith regional proposal brought forward by a handful of House Republicans. 
  • So what was still standing when the full House and Senate convened on Wednesday? A bill to raise around $1.5 billion statewide for transportation over five years. ($1.5 billion sounds like a lot, but in reality it would have netted Northern Virginia about enough to pay for a highway interchange each year.) Oh, and the Senate had signaled in no uncertain terms that the financing mechanism was unacceptable to them, so the bill would be DOA.
  • A bunch of bills tinkering with the transportation bureaucracy — many of them worthwhile, none of them earthshaking.
  • A bill allocating $339 million in surplus funds to various transportation projects around the state. I offered an amendment to redirect some of that money to focus on a transportation problem just over the horizon that has the potential to paralyze the entire Northern Virginia region: the Army’s plan to relocate 22,000 jobs over the next five years to the Fort Belvoir area. The road and transit network down there is totally inadequate to handle an influx of that magnitude, and it could very well create gridlock from the 14th Street Bridge to Fredericksburg. My amendment, alas, went down on a near-party line vote. Mark my words: we’ll all live to regret it.

Here’s the really bad part: by doing nothing this week, we’ve virtually ensured that nothing meaningful will happen on transportation for another two whole years. The reason: the political calendar. 2007 is an election year for all 100 Delegates and 40 Senators. If we couldn’t summon up the collective will to make the hard choices now, do you think we’ll be able to next year? Of course.  And pigs fly.

UPDATE: Channeling Oliver Cromwell, this morning’s Richmond Times-Dispatch summed up Special Session I perfectly.


One thought on “Bupkis”

  1. This is truly frustrating as a Virginia communter. Truly.

    Not unexpected, and I appreciate that you guys stood up for what was clearly right in this situation–the only way to fix the problem is to generate a PERMANENT and STATEWIDE revenue stream of at LEAST $1B per year–preferrably $2B per year. I really believe that. However, we’d need at least half of that to come to Northern Virginia, in my estimation, especially for the first several years. It’s not easy to stand up and say you recognize that no one likes to pay more taxes and fees, but when the common good is so threatened by the failure of a state government to resolve a critical issue, like this state is, that’s what I call leadership.

    Thanks to you both and Governor Kaine for standing up for it.

    One thing though, I’d like to challenge the conventional wisdom that “nothing can be done” in an election year to resuscitate tranportation bills. As a citizen, taxpayer, and voter, I get tired of hearing that things cannot be accomplished in an eleciton year. In fact, I think House Democrats have a stellar issue on which to press in an election year, because I firmly believe pressing the House GOP on this will make previously unthinkable districts for Democrats (maybe even in Stafford and such places) competitive.

    Democrats need to continue to press and lead the charge for a REAL solution–election year or not, if they expect to be able to lead the House with a majority of delegates.

    Just my opinion.

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