The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Kaine floats road-funding proposals; 1A

Transportation trust ‘lockbox’ promise derided by Kilgore

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Next year would be a “transportation year” if he’s elected as governor in November, Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine said Thursday.

But Kaine’s ideas are at best old, and at worst more flip-flops, according to his Republican opponent, former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore.

Kaine told reporters on a conference call that he’d anchor his efforts to cut gridlock around creating a transportation trust fund “lockbox” that would be immune to raids by the General Assembly.

Taxes levied for road projects, like the gas tax, would be off limits. Kaine would propose a constitutional amendment to that end, and would threaten to veto any new money earmarked for transportation until the fund was secure in some fashion.

It would take longer than his term to put the amendment in place, but when pressed by reporters, Kaine wouldn’t make an ironclad commitment to veto transportation tax hikes.

“I’m not going to talk about new revenues” until the transportation funds is off limits, he said, contrasting his approach to that of state Sen. H. Russell Potts, Jr., R-Winchester. Potts is mounting an independent campaign for the governor’s office.

Potts has said he’d call a special session immediately to talk about how to provide more funding for transportation, and would have highway crews working on the problem within six months.

“I think Potts has the order wrong,” said Kaine. “You don’t pour more money into a bucket that has a leak in it.”

It didn’t take the Kilgore campaign long to find opposition to Kaine’s proposal. Del. Vince Callahan, R-Fairfax, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said Kaine’s plan was a flip-flop by the lieutenant governor.

“He attacked Jerry Kilgore for proposing the use of future surplus general funds for transportation needs,” Callahan says in an e-mail statement to reporters. “Next thing you know, he proposes the very same thing in a so-called plan.”

The campaign also said Kaine had changed his mind on gas taxes, citing support for an increase in the levy in 2004.

But Kaine also had some ammunition chambered for Kilgore, who has proposed regional transportation authorities, which would have the power to make transportation decisions for large sections of the state.

“We don’t need to take our limited dollars and create a new level of government. If a region wants to engage in self-help,” his administration would support it, Kaine said. But a “regional approach doesn’t do it. This is more than a regional problem, it’s a statewide problem.”

Kaine also took a swipe at Kilgore’s stand on taxes.

Officials who spoke out against the 2004 tax increase, which levied more than $1.5 billion in new taxes, were wrong, Kaine said.

“Those of us who stood for budget reform in 2004 produced an economy and a revenue stream that produced a surplus in 2005,” he said. “That transportation funding would have been impossible if budget reform had failed.”

Calls to roll back the hike are misguided, he said, because the $500 million surplus projected this year can also be used for major transportation projects.

At the local level, Kaine said his administration would “get local officials much more deeply involved in the transportation planning process” by extending to rural areas of the state the concept of federal metropolitan planning organizations, which require governments in urban areas to work together.