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

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Raw Data: Senate Rebuttal

From the Senate Republican Leadership Trust this morning...

House Transportation Plan - Fact Check

April 3, 2006

The House transportation and budget plan described in this morning's briefing sounded remarkable. It devotes $1 billion in new money to transportation over the next two years without raising taxes while spending about the same as the Senate budget in other areas.

How do they do it? The answer falls into three parts:

1. Actually spend less in some areas
2. Raise fees
3. Borrow to make up the rest

Spend less
There can be a meaningful policy debate over what spending items are needed, necessary and vital or not. However, there is no getting around the fact that the House budget spends significantly less than the introduced budget or the Senate budget in a number of areas over the next two years. To pretend otherwise is foolish. They include:

* $63 million less for K-12 education
* $62 million less for colleges and universities
* $48 million less for teacher salaries
* $45 million less for state worker salaries and benefits
* $43 less in required deposits to the Rainy Day Fund
* $30 million less for school construction
* $35 million less for water quality improvement, eliminating the Southern Rivers program
* $22 million less for public safety
* $22 million less for economic development
* $11 million less for courts, public defenders, clerks, etc

And this is only a partial list.

Higher Fees
The House budget depends on over a half billion dollars on increased driver fines and fees, $590.2 million to be exact, over the next four years. The Senate expects less than half that amount.

There are serious misgivings over whether that massive amount will ever materialize. Will low income and youthful drivers be able to comply? And can fees be imposed on actions made before a law is passed? We'll see.

Go into debt for the rest
If looking at just a press release from the House, the only future debt-related items you see are the Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia revolving loan funds. To discover how the House spends almost as much as the Senate yet still has $1 billion to put into transportation, you have to find the debt imbedded in the budget.

By borrowing on these construction projects rather than spending funds available from the surplus, the House budget frees up General Funds to finance their short-term transportation plan:

* $259 million on college and university buildings
* $83 million for mental health facilities
* $64 million for the forensics lab
* $62 million for prison facilities
* $62 million for the School for the Deaf and Blind
* $21 million for state parks

Are there similarities? Sure. Both plans anticipate spending over $300 million from General Fund surpluses over the four years. However, the Senate plan does not rely upon debt and provdes for a long-range solution, not a short term fix.

Scott Leake
Executive Director