Someone Else's Problem
Monday, March 13, 2006 :::
Why might the budget stalemate be different this time around? An interesting WaPo article on the geography of the transportation "crisis" gives a few very good reasons, some of which will set the teeth of NoVans on edge:
Elsewhere, however, transportation concerns are more localized and less pressing in people's lives. In Richmond, for example, drivers suffer through regular jams on the primary routes between the suburbs and city's center, but they're mostly minimal and predictable. Rush hour lasts about an hour. In the Washington suburbs, the morning and afternoon congestion stretches for about a third of a day.
"Compared to the other two largest metro areas, we don't have any ground to do a lot of complaining," said Kaine, a former Richmond mayor and longtime city resident.
The problems are concentrated...there is no way to disguise that fact. But the experience of the Richmond area can be instructive for other parts of the state. I've mentioned before that Henrico retains the ability (along with Arlington) to issue its own bonds to pay for its own roads. Traffic is some sections of the County is heavy, but hardly stifling. And unlike other areas, in metro Richmond, local authorities are not hesitant about building new roads...though there are places where the possibility of widening roads would result in open rebellion, no matter how bad the traffic gets.
But the larger point, that this debate lacks the fire of the 2004 tax fight, is true. Roads do not stir the passions like education. And the needs are concentrated to such a degree that the concept of "user pays" makes far more sense than does the imposition of general taxes, particularly upon those who would not see a direct, immediate benefit.
Is that enough, however, to prevent the Senate and Governor from getting their way? Maybe. In the end, this will come down to discipline. And on that score, history leans against the House.
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 3/13/2006