Tuesday, April 13, 2021
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Tag: transportation bonded debt

Promises, Promises, Promises…

Way back in 1968, Richard Nixon got to the White House by promising America that he had a way to end the war in Vietnam. His "way" was to fight the war for seven more years. In 2009 Bob McDonnell got to the Virginia statehouse, in part, by promising that he had some wonderful "transportation plan" he would show us after he was elected. Instead, what we got was simply the usual borrow-and-spend, short-term GOP answer to a long-range, serious problem. His "plan" turned out to be nothing more than to sell a bunch of bonds, pray that the federal government won't cut future funds to the states for transportation, and saddle Virginia taxpayers with hundreds of millions of dollars in debt service through 2035.

Since I really don't see how any solutions to the transportation mess we have are emanating from the toxic politics now in Richmond, I decided to try to think of a few myself. First, let's not even start with some idea that raising the gasoline tax will provide all needed future revenue. Yes, the state gas tax needs to be adjusted to account for its loss in real value due to inflation over the years, but that tax has its own problems. Greater fuel efficiency, the rising cost of gasoline, and greater use of hybrid and electric vehicles will - hopefully - reduce the amount of gas we buy. So, let's think outside of the "gas tax box" this time.

Since 2006, Oregon has experimented with a small trial system to collect transportation revenue based on a user fee calculated on miles driven. That prototype employs volunteers having GPS equipment in their cars, something that smacks a little too much of "big brother" for my tastes. However, in Virginia there would be an easy way to calculate mileage driven by vehicles in the state, using the annual inspection system already in place.