Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Plenty of Perspective

We here at AFP- Virginia have made it a point to keep the tax questions off this blog. However a recent editorial by the Roanoke Times has asked some questions in regards to our tax campaign that are relavent to the work we are trying to accomplish with the Cost Cutting Caucus.

The piece begins by mentioning a "gargantuan shortfall" in regards to the cost of fully funding our transportation needs. They point out that under the current system we should expect a $108 billion shortfall in transportation funding over the next 20 years. Wow!

The piece then went on to close out with this little line in response to AFP's radio ads and comments by Lt Gov Bolling:

Rousing anti-tax sentiment is easy. Making vague recommendations for cutting "unnecessary" spending is easy.

Governing responsibly and facing the monumental challenge of a $108 billion transportation shortfall over the next 20 years is hard.

I would disagree with much of the premise of these comments. The truly hardwork of government is not making the knee-jerk reaction to simply take money away from citizens when Richmond has broken the bank. The immediate desire always seems to be to "raise revenues" verse reforming how we spend our current dollars. Reform-- that is the truly "hard work".

So, lets do some of the heavy lifting and go back over some of the many reforms mentioned by the contributors to this blog, other AFP publications and the work of many other organizations in Virginia.
  1. I would suggest the Editors of the Roanoke Times take a moment to read the research booklet entitled "21st Century Highways" published by the Virginia Institute and Heritage Foundation. This work provides several different studies on how to address issues such as congestion, road maintenance, regional planning and tolling. Good read. Several solutions that might work in Virginia.
  2. We should look at new ways to maintain our roads as pointed out by Will Vehrs on this blog and at Bacons Rebellion. Will points out that legislation already proposed would knock out almost 20% of the estimated "shortfall" this year. When projected long term it would be interesting to see if it stays at 20% or if it grows as maintenance is a major fixed cost for transportation.
  3. Mike Thompson of the Jefferson Institute points out that if you expand the above mentioned reforms to all state maintained roads the total annual savings could reach $400 million. Well, there is 40% of the immediate "shortfall".
  4. Geoff Segal of Reason suggests several other reforms that can take place to save the state money. A key point here is to embrace the free market and implement tolls for future expansions and new roads. This my friends will truly impact those who use the roads as opposed to taxing folks in Blacksburg to alleviate the traffic in Falls Church.

Fact is there are several options out there to help save money before we raise taxes. The key is to ensure first that our dollars already being taken are being used effectively and only for transportation. Second, we must develop an equitable system where people are truly paying for the roads the use instead of making "donor regions" of the state help fund infrastructure they will never utilize.

The free market and competition is the key. The "hard work" as pointed out by the Roanoke Times is to find ways to utilize the free market to the benefit of the state government, the business community and taxpayers.

When my family seems to have a "funding crisis" I do not go to my boss and demand "additional revenue". Instead the family finds ways to spend money more effeiciently and address wyas to get more band for our buck. Why should government be immune from this concept?

The political leader willing to stand against rasing taxes and fights for real reform to how we travel in Virginia will be courageous. Those wishing to raise taxes when we enjoy a budgetary windfall and simply looking to do maintain the "business as usual" mentality.



  • Rob,

    The material you cite is most likely not sitting in the in-boxes or on the night tables of any members of the RT editorial board. Or for that matter, many other papers in the state.

    They seem to have unquestioningly accepted the same fallacy -- the only way to solve a problem is to throw more money at it.

    Hopefully, someone at the RT will stumble across Ron Utt's book and actually crack the cover. Or failing that, discover this blog and find that there are a number of ways to address transportation without first mugging the taxpayer.

    It's asking for a lot. But hope springs eternal.

    By Blogger Norman, at 2/01/2006 9:05 PM  

  • You're absolutely right-- there are other ways to address transportation without first mugging the taxpayer (especially when the taxpayer is still smarting from the last attack less than 2 years ago...).

    Cal Thomas had a good article on transportation in Virginia on on January 23rd.

    He points out:
    "But a policy built on roads is problematic, because history has shown in Northern Virginia and other congested regions of the country that traffic usually keeps up with "improved" road systems. It isn't long after old roads are widened and new ones built that cars fill the new space and traffic again backs up. The time it will take to "improve" Northern Virginia's road system - an estimated 10 years - will cause more lane closings, detours and worse gridlock than now exists.
    Any policy that relies solely, or even mostly, on ever-increasing taxes and fees to boost revenue is a policy that eventually will hurt business, reduce investment capital and harm the economy."

    As Rob said, reform is the truly hard work. Especially when so many seem determined to take the easy way out and just demand more and more from the taxpayers.

    By Anonymous whitney, at 2/02/2006 8:48 AM  

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