Movements of Wise Men
Friday, December 29, 2006 :::
The "secret meetings" between various GOP officeholders has generated some interest in the right side of the blog world. And with good reason -- any time someone attempts to get the factions talking with one another, particularly when those factions have been warring like disgruntled in-laws ever since the elopement, it's worthy of analysis.
I've no problem with Bob McDonnell, Frank Wolf, Tom Davis, Ed Gillespie and others starting a dialogue. I'm not sure, however, that anything will come of it.
That House and Senate Republicans have been at odds over new taxes for roads is old news. But unlike the Senate, the House has at least been willing to consider ideas that would address the root of the transportation problem (something Jim discusses here). I don't believe the Senate has done anything close to this, preferring instead to adopt the role of the most hidebound conservative it their defense of the existing system.
It's been explained to me that, in general, the Senate leadership really and truly believes that major budget items like transportation need dedicated revenue streams so they do not have to compete with one another. On one level, this is perfectly understandable. We would not impose a gas tax to fund education (or would we?). But it assumes that the source of all these streams -- taxpayers -- never runs dry. Anyone who has seen what happens when rivers are tapped, re-tapped and tapped again for various uses knows that, eventually, the main stream becomes a trickle and its dependents all suffer. It also assumes that competition among major budget items is a bad thing.
I don't believe that's the case. If anything, they ought to compete fiercely for every dollar they receive. Does transportation come before education? Make the case. Does education come before law enforcement, the environment, Medicare, mental health, the car tax rebate? Make the case. Make them compete. Dedicated revenue sources allow the most difficult decisions to slide by. That's fine if one's source of funds is infinite. But even the taxpayer's pockets have limits.
I stand by my proposal to give the pro-tax forces all they desire in the way of new monies. Give them all they want in the next session -- but sunset those new revenues after a period of years to assess whether they have made a measurable difference in addressing certain region's transportation issues. If they have, fine. Then I'm wrong, the world really is round and I will recant my ways. But if they aren't -- if, even after several years and several new billions of dollars finds NoVans sitting in traffic contemplating a new career in road rage -- then the pro-tax side must admit that new monies alone are not the solution. They must look elsewhere for solutions.
I'll probably grow older, balder and fatter waiting for anything like this to occur. But I'm willing to take the plunge if they are.
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 12/29/2006