Is NOVA being screwed by McDonnell/GOP toll deal?

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    by Paul Goldman

    Let me follow up given people’s questions: Yes, NOVA could easily be getting screwed by the McDonnell proposal to take $100 million in state transportation money not now dedicated to Tidewater transportation projects and spend it  for the Governor’s plan to delay the tolls in Tidewater until he is conveniently out of office.

    It is a basic matter of math. He has to find the $100 million in additional money from somewhere. If it isn’t from delaying/stopping/cutting funding for road projects/other state down in Tidewater, then by definition it has to come from money that was either dedicated to other parts of the state or would normally be allocated to those areas in the normative course of business. So yes, it doesn’t just have to be NOVA, it could be another part of the state.

    Moving money from your right pocket to your left pocket doesn’t give you more money.

    The “new” money thing is a just ruse: remember, but for the Tidewater Toll Project, this “new” $100 million would be allocated around the state as is the other “old” money. This is true even if the new money is coming from refinancing higher interest state bonds: this “new” money would not all go to Tidewater, just it’s fair share.  

    So don’t be fooled by some parlor trick. Moreover, once you start down this road, the politics become very tricky in the 2013 Gov race and other parts of the state. Every area is going to want the same “deal” for all the new money from something.

    Governor McDonnell thinks he is being clever and hoping NOVA residents among others are not paying attention. But unless he says all the money is has “found” to delay the tolls conveniently past his leaving office comes from funds already dedicated to, or otherwise likely to be dedicated to Tidewater stuff, then NOVA, et. al are losers to some extent. That’s the math.

    Moreover, if you read the agreement, why is the state providing for free services that should be covered by the tolls, the whole idea of a toll/user fee is to have the users pay for the reasonable expenses of the road way, with the private company on the hook in a risk v reward scenario where they taking risk for profit.

    Moreover: Does the Toll Delay only mean higher initial tolls to boot under a new Governor? They still refuse to release all the information needed to make those kinds of judgments. We still can’t tell whether this is a good deal for the state or whether the Governor gave away the store.

    Finally, it seems to me the project documents suggest that McDonnell has created a potential boondoggle by demanding substantial minority set asides – we are talking $billions and $billions – which tend not to do what the law intended but rather wind up to a large degree in the pockets of a handful of folks who game the system with various strategies: the provisions in the Agreement seem ripe for abuse if you ask me.

    Richmond was supposedly the place with the most generous such set asides, and the evidence is that it has often proven to be boondoggle for politically connected folks, not the people the law intends to help.

    In today’s economic climate, this could blow up big time if again, he has given away the store to get this thing done on his watch so he can claim a victory and leave the mess to the next Governor.

    AND: All this is clear before you or I or experts have the ability to see all the key documents Governor Warner’/Delegate Marshall wanted the people to have in their 2003 law covering these kinds of projects for the very reason of the possibility of playing fast and loose with public money and also allowing crony capitalists to gain an unfair advantage at the expense of the public.