In his eight years in the White House, George W. Bush led the federal government into an economic crisis created by letting business do whatever it wanted, spending vast amounts of borrowed money on two unfunded wars and putting in place tax cuts that did nothing to create jobs as was promised but lined the pockets of the already-wealthy and gave the federal government a structural deficit. Now, all of Washington is consumed with a national debt that threatens the long-term fiscal health of our nation.
Here in Virginia, Bob McDonnell knows quite well that we have an ongoing transportation crisis in the state, one that is responsible for the gridlocked roads in northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, a growing backlog of transportation maintenance that needs to be done, and the prospect that Virginia won’t have the money to qualify for federal matching funds. His solution is straight out of the Bushonomics handbook: Borrow massive amounts of money, spend it now, absolutely refuse to look for revenue sources, and kick fiscal responsibility to the next generation.
Amazingly, McDonnell told a transportation conference at the Hotel Roanoke that he has a “plan” to fix Virginia’s road crisis, one that relies on massive bond sales, spending money held by VDOT to pay contracts in a timely fashion, and committing the General Assembly to spend whatever fiscal surpluses might appear in the future on building roads. Never mind if the state needs to pay back money already borrowed from the state pension fund, return to a reasonable funding of colleges and universities, increase education funding, end the shortchanging of other social services, etc.
According to the Roanoke Times, here’s the outline of McDonnell’s ridiculous “plan.”
The plan envisions selling more than $2.9 billion in new bonds. Officials would allocate $400 million in already-identified surplus state money to loans, loan guarantees and grants to local governments strapped for road dollars. To garner the other $700 million, the governor mentioned the possibility of future surpluses and whatever money the state would make if it privatizes state-owned liquor stores.
I heartily agree with Del. Ward Armstrong (D-Henry County), who ridiculed the “plan” as one that “is just the latest in a long line of irresponsible and half-baked ideas that fail to address our core problem of generating a long-term sustainable source of funding for our transportation needs.”
As Jeff Southard, executive vice president of the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance, said, unless McDonnell proposes a new source of transportation revenue, “we’ve done nothing but kick the can down the road.”