Lying and demagoguery by Republicans in Congress is nothing new, of course. Just see today’s Benghazi show trial/witch hunt as a prime example.
Sadly, here in Virginia, it’s not really any different, at least not based on the new TV ad campaign being run by Virginia House Republicans (aka, Speaker Bill Howell and company). For instance, see the ad being run by Republican House of Delegates candidate Danny Vargas against Democrat Jennifer Boysko (and note: a cut-and-paste, basically identical ad is being run by Republican Craig Parisot against Democrat Kathleen Murphy). Yep, the lies here come fast and furious, but let’s try to untangle them one by one.
First off, who knows what Speaker Howell et al are even talking about when they accuse Boysko and Murphy of support for (horror of horrors!) “raising taxes.” Presumably, they mean that Boysko and Murphy both supported the bipartisan, 2013 transportation bill. You know, the bill that was backed by – yes, you guessed, it, Speaker Bill Howell, the guy who’s paying for these ads, himself! – and signed into law by Gov. Bob McDonnell (R). So, basically, these new TV ads are by Republican Party leadership, essentially attacking their own party’s leadership. It would be funny if it weren’t so cynical and dishonest.
Second, what about Gov. McAuliffe’s supposed “plan for $17 tolls on I-66?” At best, this is WILDLY misleading and dishonest. For some actualy facts (what a concept) on this subject, see the Virginia Department of Transportation (DOT) page on transforming I-66 inside the Beltway. Let’s start with this video, produced by the Virginia DOT, that explains the problem – terrible traffic congestion, as anyone who lives in northern Virginia knows – and the plans to fix it.
The gist of the plan: “convert all lanes into dynamically priced toll lanes during weekday rush hours between the Capitol Beltway and Rosslyn,” investing revenues “into multi-modal improvements that directly benefit the I-66 corridor.” Also note that outside rush hours, “the lanes will be free to all traffic, like they are today.” Also note that “the lanes will be free to vehicles with three or more passengers, on-duty law enforcement and emergency vehicles, and buses.” The goal with all this, as the video explains, is to “help I-66 move more people reliably,” while allowing single-occupant vehicles – “who today are not permitted to use I-66 inside the Beltway during rush hours” – to do so. In addition, “reliability and speed will improve,” while again, the lanes “will be free to ALL traffic during non-rush hours, including on weekends.” And again, the revenues will be reinvested into improving traffic flow in the corridor (e.g., by enhanced transit service, roadway improvements to improve traffic flow at chokepoints, investments in major regional bikeways). In other words, this is a large, multi-faceted plan, only ONE component of which – although an important one – is dynamically priced toll lanes during rush hours on I-66 insde the Beltway.
For more detailed information on this plan, see the VDOT PowerPoint presentation. Note that tolling is dynamic, depending on traffic conditions, with the goal being to maintain speed at a minimum of 45 MPH. This isn’t a new concept, nor is it a particularly progressive ones in some ways.. In fact, “free-market” groups, including the far-right Heartland Institute, tout congestion pricing as “a way of harnessing the power of the market to reduce the waste associated with traffic congestion,” while offering drivers “a reliable trip time, which is very valuable especially when they have to be somewhere on time.”
As a progressive and environmentalist, of course, I’d rather see a combination of smart-growth strategies with huge upgrades to public transportation (Metro, streetcars, bus rapid transit, etc.), including making public transit REALLY reliable and REALLY cheap – even free – for people to use, so that folks would happily ditch their cars for the train or bus. And the LAST thing I want to see is additional pavement, for a wide variety of reasons, including: a) it simply encourages more sprawl and more traffic; b) it’s polluting, at a time when we need to be rapidly phasing out greenhouse gas emissions; c) it’s expensive, and for no good reason (see points “a”and “b”). Regardless, what Gov. McAuliffe’s plan does is pretty much harness Free Market Economics 101 to address/ameliorate a problem in a cost-effective fashion. Why any “conservative” would oppose this, other than for cynical political reasons, is a good question to ask them.
Back to the ad, though, for a minute. Essentially, the Republican argument is that dynamic tolling is heinous and must be stopped (even though it’s fundamentally a conservative, free-market idea; of course they don’t mention that in the ad). The argument, such as it is, proceeds to claim that since [fill-in-the-blank Democratic candidate] is an “ally” of the evil Governor McAuliffe, they “can’t be trusted to stop the tolls” (and of course the focus is on the most extreme dynamic tolling case, the ami being to get people REALLY mad). Oh ,and even worse, the [fill-in-the-blank Democrat candidate] is “funded by insiders pushing McAuliffe’s agenda” (no idea what this means, but it sounds SCARY!!!!! or something).
Ergo, using Republican “logic” – also known as “complete ILLOGIC” – don’t vote for [fill-in-the-blank Democratic candidate], because: a) the ONLY thing that matters in this election is this dynamic tolling plan by VDOT (forget every other issue, such as education, the environment, a woman’s right to choose, Medicaid expansion, etc, etc.); b) even though many Democrats – such as Boysko and Murphy – SAY they oppose this plan, you can’t trust them because…wait for it…they’re Democrats! And so is Gov. McAuliffe!!! Got that? So clever, these Republicans! And yes, that really is their entire “argument.” The question is, will anyone buy this load of steaming horse manure? We’ll see on November 3.
P.S. Kathleen Murphy and Jennifer Boysko have each sent out fundraising emails based on the Republicans’ nasty, false TV ad campaign. See below for their core messages.
Kathleen Murphy: “The lies? Parisot is running ads claiming Kathleen supports putting a steep toll on I-66, even though Kathleen and fellow Democrats have openly opposed it. In fact she said it directly to Parisot in their last two debates.”
Jennifer Boysko: “We just got word that the Republican Speaker of the House is giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to my opponent to run attack ads on broadcast TV against me, lying about my positions.”