Saslaw, McEachin, Play Hardball: NOVA vs Tidewater

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    by Paul Goldman

    Instead of Tit for Tat, we have Toll Delay for Toll Delay.

    It isn’t exactly Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, but it will do for government work.

    Governor Bob “No Car Toll!” McDonnell thought he had an updated version of Governor Jim Gilmore’s famed campaign slogan “No Car Tax!”

    “No Car Toll!” McDonnell believes the controversial private/public deal he cut on the Tidewater Toll project is a winner for him, especially if he can delay the imposition on any of the record high tolls until after leaving office in January, 2014. He got his folks on the Commonwealth Transportation Board ready to do just that, using $100 million which otherwise would have been allocated around the state to instead be directed solely for Tidewater Toll Delay.

    However, Little Richard and Big Mac, Senate Democratic leaders Dick Saslaw and Donald McEachin, have a lot of NOVA Senators on their team. They feel NOVA has been short-changed for years on transportation — and “No Car Toll!” Bob has hit a big nerve by having the nerve to find $100 million for Tidewater, but not a dime for NOVA residents likewise facing some huge tolls.

    Like I say: Instead of Tit For Tat, you have Toll Delay for Toll Delay.

     

    So far, “No Toll Bob” is outraged that Little Richard and Big Mac believe all toll increases are created equal, and thus are arguing for what is good for the goose, is good for the gander.

    Not so, says “No Car Toll!” Bob. As he sees it, those big Tidewater tolls are bad, and need to be delayed until he leaves office, claiming the timing is just a coincidence. Right.

    But as for the NOVA tolls, “No Car Toll!” Bob refuses to give NOVA residents such an Easy-Pass.

    He has a host of reasons why they must be made to pay the tolls, or at least why it would be wrong for him to agree to the same deal for Tidewater tollsters and NOVA tollsters.

    Little Richard and Big Mac ain’t buying the Governor’s position so far.

    According to the Governor, he is going to delay the Tidewater Tolls no matter how the budget deal comes out; his folks on the Commonwealth Transportation Board can do it on their own dime.

    Is this the case also for NOVA?

    This brings us to the hardball politics, since in my experience, whatever the Governor and General Assembly want to do, they can do, unless it is prohibited by the Constitution.

    I don’t find anything in Mr. Madison’s handiwork, as amended, which says “Toll Delays in NOVA are prohibited.”

    So I figure Little Richard and Big MAC are telling No Car Toll straight up: Governor, you need to find something for NOVA on transportation.

    My advice: Break out some Toll Brother’s cookies in the Governor’s office, and find a way to satisfy Little Richard and Big MAC. The Tidewater Toll Road/Tunnel Project has now set in motion a chain of events running all the way until the November, 2013 election.

    If Democrats are smart, they can ride it into the Governor’s Mansion.

    McDonnell and the GOP may find the $300 million price tag demanded by Little Richard and Big MAC relatively cheap compared to what may happen at the 2013 General Assembly Session.

    “No Car Toll” Bob might be wise to freeze all the tolls until he gets safely out of office and driven back to his home in Tidewater.

    The sleight of hand sweetheart financing of his Tidewater Toll Road/Tunnel project, with special deals and empty promises aimed at getting people to accept what should be unacceptable, can not last but for so long.

    Little Richard and Big MAC are playing hardball. Could the Governor wait them out? Probably. But ironically, the cost of having the Democrats give in will be far worse for McDonnell then if he gives in.

    “For Whom The Bell Tolls” should be rather clear by now.