July 15, 2008

Pointing Fingers on Transportation

The only things that came out of the General Assembly's special session on transportation were recriminations and accusations.

The people of Virginia deserve better, but it will almost certainly take an election for them to get it.

As long as the House remains in its current hands, there will be no statewide, comprehensive action on transportation.

So Virginians will face a choice in November 2009: Keep in power a recalcitrant House leadership that refuses to view transportation as a statewide issue in need of a statewide solution, or elect delegates willing to put governance ahead of ideology.

House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, continued to demonstrate his inability to do that with a gratuitous reference to the presidential campaign.

"No doubt Governor Kaine and his fellow Democrats will continue to blame Republicans for obstructionism, as was their intention from the outset," Griffith said. "No doubt, too, they will continue to privately disparage Virginians for selfishly clinging to their hard- earned tax dollars, just as they demean regular folks for clinging to their guns and to their religion."

Griffith got one thing right: Kaine made no bones about the fact that he would paint Republicans as obstructionists if they failed to act.

Though he's taken a lot of hits, even from some fellow Democrats, for not having a deal in place before he called the special session, Kaine has come at this issue with the most frankness and flexibility of any party.

Kaine, who struck a deal with Republicans last year, has shown a willingness, even an eagerness to compromise on the transportation issue -- as long as the compromise involved a statewide answer to Virginia's maintenance woes.

He put forth a package, similar to one he'd advocated in the past, for both statewide tax increases and targeted regional taxes to help with the more pressing congestion issues in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

But he was clear from the beginning that he was open to other solutions. "I've put a plan on the table," Kaine said. "I've been very willing to compromise."

Senate Democrats put forward an alternate plan. Republicans stuck to their insistence on concentrating solely on the regional problems, ignoring a mounting maintenance shortfall that was forcing the state to divert more and more funds from new construction.

There will undoubtedly be yet another attempt next year to resolve this, but without new players, there doesn't seem much reason to hope for a different outcome.

Virginia voters will have to decide whether they believe funding transportation is a vital issue and, if so, which politicians are actually capable of doing something about it.

(c) 2008 Roanoke Times & World News. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.