Home Virginia Politics Winners and Losers: Virginia Transportation/Medicaid Deal 2013

Winners and Losers: Virginia Transportation/Medicaid Deal 2013


This is not a comprehensive list of “winners” and “losers” from the historic transportation deal in Virginia this past week. It is also NOT a comprehensive “winners” and “losers” list for the entire General Assembly session, just for the transportation/Medicaid deal. Feel free to add your own “winners” and “losers” in the comments section. Thanks!


1. Bob McDonnell: He’s governor, so he gets the credit and the “legacy,” accomplishing something (a major transportation funding bill) that has eluded numerous, previous governors. That’s despite the fact that the final transportation package bears little resemblance to what McDonnell first proposed this year, LET ALONE what he said he’d do – and wouldn’t do (e.g., raise taxes) – in the 2009 gubernatorial campaign. But will people remember the backstory? I doubt it.

2. Democratic State Senate leadership (Saslaw, McEachin, Howell, etc.): They played their hand well, ending up with a bill that kept a gas tax, might even end up increasing it depending on how things work out, that increased overall revenues, that added important regional taxation pieces, and that somehow (apparently) managed to push Bob McDonnell to agree to Medicaid expansion. And, basically, they held their caucus together, delivering most of the votes needed to pass the bill. Now, we’ll see if this helps or hurts them politically when Senators face reelection in 2015, or prior to that if there are special elections.

3. Dulles Airport: Will get a Metro line right to its doorstep, which presumably makes anyone with a financial stake in the success of Dulles Airport very happy, as it’s essentially a massive taxpayer subsidy aimed at making Dulles more competitive vis-a-vis its main competitors (National and BWI).

4. Dulles Toll Road commuters: Should benefit from this deal by seeing lower tolls than they would have without the deal.

5. Terry McAuliffe: He emerged on the winning side in this debate, while demonstrating that he’s willing to make (what he’d argue) are reasonable, bipartisan compromises to move Virginia forward. That’s pretty much how he’s going to run his 2013 gubernatorial campaign, as far as I can tell, starkly contrasting himself with the extreme, ideologically “pure” Ken Cucinelli, who would choose to never get anything done while holding to his far-right-wing/Tea Party principles.

6. Bill Bolling: He showed pragmatism and an ability to compromise, once again highlighting a stark contrast in style – and increasingly in substance – with Ken Cuccinelli. The question is, will Bolling run for governor in 2013 as a pragmatic moderate in the mold of his political partner and ally, Bob McDonnell? If so, will he draw a significant number of votes from Republicans who find Ken Cuccinelli to be too extreme, and from independents who for whatever reason aren’t comfortable with either Cuccinelli OR McAuliffe? We’ll find out in a little over 2 weeks…

7. Developers, wealthy individuals, Chamber of Commerce members: They all should love this, as the taxes are mostly regressive (e.g., hitting lower income people disproportionately), yet the benefits from the new roads will disproportionately help businesses, developers, and other wealthy interests (and their representatives in the Chamber of Commerce, etc.).

8. Bill Howell: Instead of just being an ALEC hack, he showed real leadership the past couple weeks, including his deep-sixing of the crazy re-redistricting plan that Republicans rammed through on Inauguration Day, and also his shepherding/browbeating of a historic transportation package through the House (albeit with a LOT of Democratic support!). The only question is, will there be blowback against Howell, but so far at least, I’m not seeing it (other than rumors that Republican House and particularly Senate members are “very angry” at Howell. Yawn.).

9. John Fredericks: The John Fredericks Show was the place to be if you wanted to hear the latest and greatest, from the people who mattered in Virginia politics, the leading up to this historic vote. Also, Fredericks personally, although a staunch conservative, came out strongly in support of the transportation deal. Looks like a double win for John Fredericks on this one!

10. 400,000 Virginians…who will see their access to health care expanded thanks to Medicaid expansion. That’s huge! (It’s also pointed out to me that this will help rural Virginia, as “Medicaid expansion is very good for rural hospitals because they wont have to pay as much for indigent care” and is also “good for health care jobs”). {UPDATE: Of course, if this is the case, then this item would not be in the “winners” category, and a couple other items on this list would likely change as well. So, what’s the real deal here? I’ve gotten completely conflicting stories, and it’s frustrating!}

11. Obamacare/President Obama: Just added another Republican-led state to its list of states agreeing to Medicaid expansion. The wall of Republican opposition to “Obamacare” continues to crumble into dust and empty blustering… {Ditto to the previous Update}


1. NOVA and Hampton Roads: Gained more power to raise revenues for regional transportation needs. That’s good. On the other hand, NOVA and Hampton Roads are already “net donors” of money to the rest of the state, while serving as Virginia’s economic engine and cash cow in many ways, yet now those two regions are forced to pay higher taxes in order to keep the engine going, while the rest of the state continues to benefit. Meh.

2. Washington Post editorial board: For years, they’ve been calling for higher gas taxes as the key to a sufficient, dedicated source of transportation funding in Virginia. What did they get in the end? A DECREASE in the gas tax. #FAIL! On the other hand, the Post editorial board also has been calling for a deal – ANY deal! – to “fix” transportation in Virginia. Well, they got something, at least, so I’m not putting them in the “losers” category. Still, the Post editorial board increasingly makes no sense, is internally illogical and inconsistent, and also is increasingly irrelevant.

3. Newspaper coverage: Really all over the place. For instance, the Moonie/Washington Times was practically AWOL on this huge debate, with minimal if any reporting, no scoops, pretty much a total #FAIL. With David Sherfinski promoted to the national desk, the Times appears to have abandoned Virginia coverage altogether. As for the Kaplan/Washington Post, they had some decent coverage, but also some egregious mistakes, such as mistakenly characterizing the partisan composition of the House-Senate conference, and also stating incorrectly that Bill Howell didn’t get a “majority of the majority” to vote for this package. In fact, he did, albeit barely. The Roanoke Times Blue Ridge Caucus blog (Michael Sluss) did an excellent job, as did the Virginian-Pilot’s Julian Walker. The Richmond Times-Dispatch? So-so, I’d say, but definitely not what should be expected of a paper based in Richmond…


1. Grover Norquist: Does anyone in Virginia care what Norquist thinks? Perhaps, but it wasn’t evident from events of the past few days in the Virginia General Assembly. And that’s great news, whatever else you think about this deal, as Norquist is one of the most corrosive, negative, nasty forces in America today.

2. The Tea Party: Clearly, Republicans’ fear of the Tea Party at this point is far lower than it used to be, as a significant number of them bucked a force they probably wouldn’t have dared to a couple years ago.

3. Conservative bloggers: Go to their blogs and watch as they call out the “RINO” “traitors,” and generally throw a massive hissy fit. Personally, I’m enjoying it immensely, especially since they’re opposing this deal for the TOTALLY wrong reasons (that it raises EVILEVILEVIL taxes! What. Ever.).  

4. Progressive bloggers: In the end, most progressive delegates and senators voted for this compromise, although the bill changed significantly and also roped in Medicaid expansion, which at least for THIS progressive blogger, led to a significant decrease in anti-deal intensity (at this point, I have a lot of mixed feelings about it).

5. Smart growth and environmental advocates: I’m not sure how badly they lost, as that will depend heavily on how the money from this transportation deal is spent (e.g., on new roads or on transit, primarily?). Still, these groups opposed the deal for the most part, yet it passed anyway. Sigh.

6. Hybrid and electric vehicle owners: They will pay an extra $50 a year, which is completely bass-ackwards public policy (we should be strongly encouraging people to drive fuel efficient vehicles, and strongly discouraging people from driving gas guzzlers) and also a kick in the teeth to people who are doing the right thing by purchasing fuel efficient vehicles!

7. Truckers, or anyone who drives a diesel-powered vehicle: For no good reason, they will pay a higher tax than SUV owners and others who use gasoline. That’s ridiculous.

8. Ken Cuccinelli: On the one hand, this deal could anger – and could fire up – Cuccinelli’s base to turn out in November. That is, if it all hasn’t blown over by then, which is quite possible. Also, aren’t those people, almost by definition, ALWAYS angry and “fired up?” On the other hand, this deal leaves Cuccinelli as the odd (in more ways than one!) man out, with Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling, and Bill Howell all on the other side of this historic deal. And Cuccinelli sets himself up for T-Mac to pound him as an obstructionist and someone who can’t get anything done for Virginia, while he can.

9. Lower income Virginians: Will pay more of their incomes on not one but TWO regressive taxes – gasoline and sales. And what will they gain? A better transportation system, potentially, particularly if they live in NOVA or Hampton Roads. If they live in rural parts of the state, though, they probably won’t gain much, at least not directly, while they lose on the sales tax.

10. Senator John Watkins (R): Total #FAIL on the redistricting fiasco, helped to (ironically) pave the way for the deals on transportation and Medicaid. Can we say “backfire?”  


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