Monday, August 10, 2009

Virginia Transportation: Pay For Roads The Old-Fashioned Way

Traditionally, the primary source of funds for transportation projects in Virginia, and throughout the U.S., has been a tax on gasoline. Raising that tax is the most logical and equitable way to fund additional transportation projects, particularly road improvements and maintenance.

So why isn't anyone proposing just that?

Bob McDonnell has proposed privatizing Virginia's state-owned liquor stores to raise money for transportation. Interesting idea--we favor privatizing them as there's no need these days for the state to be in that business. But it's a one-time deal that would raise a few hundred million, not the billions needed over a long period of time. Furthermore, the state would lose the stream of revenue it currently receives from the liquor stores, so all McDonnell is really doing is taking in upfront cash in place of the steady revenue. More an accounting trick than anything else.

Creigh Deeds? We don't know what he proposes. He invokes former Gov. Baliles, who brokered a transportation funding deal in the 1980's, but doesn't say how he's going to do it.

Our suggestion: raise the gas tax. As a percentage of gasoline costs, the tax has gone down considerably as the overall price of gasoline has risen. Compared to the cost of gasoline last year, a nickel increase in the gas tax is not going to significantly impact motorists. Indeed, the cost of gas fluctuates that much over a period of a week or two these days.

Indeed, Virginia's current gas tax ranks about 40th in the country. That's nice, but Virginia's road needs rank much higher.

Raising the gasoline tax also encourages conservation and discourages sprawl (a little) by making it a bit more expensive to drive.

Of course, there's a chorus ready to howl at the very thought of a gas tax hike--generally, a bunch of yahoos driving around in big ol' gas-sucking SUV's with hypocritical "we support our troops" ribbons on them, tailgating you and me and they barrel down Virginia's crowded highways.

Virginians need to make the choice to pay for the roads they need. If not, the state's economy will grow at a slower rate than it otherwise would, gradually choking off economic opportunities as businesses and people avoid our inadequate highways.


Anonymous said...

Never get by the GOP down state. Good idea though.

Privitizing the liquor stores is idiotic. I'm all for the state getting out of the business and allowing liquor to be sold like any other product, but as between a government monopoly and a for-profit private one, I'll take the former, please.

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