My first impression of Kilgore’s transportation proposal to create regional authorities that could tax was favorable, until I read the referendum part of it and that he would fund projects using general funds from the state budget. AP writer Bob Lewis details the problems.
Kilgore and his likely Democratic rival in November, Tim Kaine, support a constitutional amendment to create a “lock box” to shield the Transportation Trust Fund from legislative raids. Lawmakers took money from the fund in 2002 and 2003 to help bail the state out of $6 billion in projected budget shortfalls.
Kilgore, however, advocates using money from the general fund, which pays for such basics as public education, law-enforcement and health care for the aged and needy, to augment transportation. Kaine supports a “two-way lock box” that bars commandeering transportation money for general government operations but also puts the general fund off-limits to transportation. However, Kaine supported using a small portion of this year’s general fund surplus for transportation.
“My commitment is to spend general fund dollars on transportation in the future. We’re seeing huge economic growth in the general fund right now,” Kilgore said.
The state’s monthly revenue collections, fed by a strong economic expansion, are well ahead of their budgeted expectations, creating the prospect that the state will end its fiscal year June 30 with a general fund surplus topping $1.2 billion.
“Instead of creating another program, let’s build another bridge or another road,” Kilgore said.
The weakness of reliance on general funds for road-building is its susceptibility to economic downturns, possibly disrupting money supplies necessary to sustain long-term highway construction plans set six years in advance.
From 2001 to 2004, the Commonwealth Transportation Board slashed its six-year road-building plan by nearly $4 billion, or 38 percent, to accommodate funding shortfalls caused by the recession and by years of substantially underestimated project costs.
Kaine’s folks have a fair response.
Kaine is strongly opposed to tax referendums, saying elected officials should take on such hard decisions themselves. “Jerry Kilgore wants to find a way to govern without exerting leadership,” said DeLacey Skinner, Kaine’s campaign press secretary.