A popular bill in the House this year was the one offered by Dels. Dave Albo and Tom Rust, two Republicans from Fairfax. The bill would have increased fines for moving violations, with the funds going toward transportation projects.

Six major newspapers in the state and the Associated Press, whose stories are picked up by smaller papers, yesterday reported on the bill’s demise in the Senate. Let’s look at how they covered the alleged amount the bill would raise.

Hampton Roads Daily Press
The money raised – an estimated $180 million a year – would have been used to help pay for transportation projects across the state.

Associated Press
The committee killed a House measure that would have generated at least $114 million (up to $180 million, supporters said) by levying hundreds or even thousands of dollars in fines on drivers who pile up too many traffic citations. (Note, the AP doesn’t even attribute the estimate to anyone but presents it as fact.)

The Roanoke Times
Committee members also rejected a bill that would have imposed stiff, annual fines for serious driving violations – such as $350 for reckless driving and $750 for drunken driving – as well as for repeated speeding violations. Supporters said the bill would have generated between $114 million and $188 million for road construction.

The Washington Post
House Republicans had said the bill on reckless driving would have raised more than $100 million a year by imposing tough fines on what they said were seriously abusive drivers.

Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star
The bill was expected to raise anywhere from $114 million to $180 million, money that the House appropriated in its budget to pay for certain transportation initiatives. The loss of that money leaves a hole that House budget negotiators will have to try to fill in talks with the Senate.

Richmond Times-Dispatch
The Senate committee also voted down a separate House bill, by Del. David B. Albo, R-Fairfax, that would generate at least $100 million a year for transportation improvements through tougher traffic fines.

Six stories tell us how much supporters say the new penalties would raise. But only the Virginian-Pilot challenges the assumptions.

Senators were equally critical of the proposed abuser fees. Supporters estimate the measure would generate at least $114 million annually, but government budget analysts have said actual revenues could be less than $25 million per year.

I’ll venture to guess that a lot of people will judge this bill based on what the supporters say it would raise, and even these recent assumptions have come down significantly from earlier estimates which, if memory serves me, were closer to $250 million, again according to supporters of the bill. Shouldn’t the media stop taking the word of proponents of measures when reporting these bills? The same thing happened last year when the press accepted Bush’s estimate of the cost of his Medicare bill: a little over $400 billion. Shortly after the bill passed, we found out he likely knew, as a Social Security actuary did, that it was well over $500 billion. And now we’ve learned that it’s over $700 billion and perhaps $1 trillion.

Kudos to Christina Nuckols of the Pilot. To the rest of them: Do your job.