Gov. Warner told a meeting of business executives and top legislators that “’We will have substantial transportation initiatives,’…saying his proposed spending will be for one-time programs emphasizing, for example, public-private partnerships and mass transit.”

Be aware that Warner provided the same good advice re the windfall for education last year, only to have some jurisdictions, such as Fairfax County I’m told, put the money into operations – in other words, recurring expenditures.

How much is available is in question, as the federal government continues to saddle states with added responsibilities.

The administration and the assembly’s own budget experts have emphasized that despite the expected record surplus, about two-thirds of the money must be used to pay for previous commitments and growing costs of programs.

One major drain is $210 million required to pay for increases in the Medicaid program for the poor.

…In Tennessee, Gov. Phil Bredesen last week said he plans to end TennCare, that state’s expanded Medicaid program, and return to traditional Medicaid to control soaring costs. That would leave 430,000 Tennesseans without health coverage and would cut benefits for 900,000 more.

“It’s a precursor of what’s going to happen in every state in the country,” Warner said. “Medicaid in Virginia has one of the leanest programs so we would be at the back end of this storm. In Virginia, Medicaid rates are only growing at only the high single-digits while in most other states it’s growing in the mid-teens.”

States aren’t likely to see the federal government increase its share of Medicaid support, Warner said.

One way of paying for transportation is an idea put forth by Republican Delegates Tom Rust and Dave Albo of Fairfax.

The initiative would have two components: Under Rust’s provision, the increased fee would be collected by the Department of Motor Vehicles after an annual review of all driving records. Under Albo’s part of the legislation, all serious traffic violations — including hit- and-run and reckless driving — could be hit with special civil assessments at the courthouse, thereby capturing out-of-state drivers.

Del. Rust was one of the 17 who backed the higher tax plan last session. Albo, on the other, didn’t.

The “abuser fee” also has political overtones, as some House Republicans who opposed last year’s tax and spending increases eye reelection in 2005.

“We need to be part of the solution,” Albo said. “Eighty percent of the calls I get are about transportation. “Retiming lights [to improve traffic flow] is not going to do it. We need to think outside the box.”

Now he wants to be part of the solution. Which made him what before?

Attention Deficits?
The Richmond Times-Dispatch, known for its conservative editorials, has a different slant on things today. Comparing politics to a river, i.e., always changing, it questions the GOP’s “collective judgement.”

The river metaphor applies to domestic policies, too. Once upon a time, Republicans believed with their minds and their hearts that budget deficits were dangerous both to the economy and to morality. Prominent conservatives claim today that “Reagan taught us deficits don’t matter.” If that is true, and it well may be, then the GOP was wrong on fiscal policy for almost the entire 20th Century. The development does not exactly encourage confidence in the party’s collective judgment. In recent years a party that blasted the Great Society has (with the Medicare prescription benefit and the No Child Left Behind Act) instituted the most sweeping expansion of the welfare state and the federal role in public education since – the Great Society.

Does the word hypocrisy come to mind?

Then we have former Governor Jim Gilmore, with free space in the Augusta Free Press, spouting his views.

“I support an appropriate level of taxation for an appropriate level of government spending,” … Gilmore said.

Gee, how many folks want an inappropriate level?

Absentee Voting: No Excuses

[Jean R. Jensen, secretary of the State Board of Elections]said she expects legislation will be introduced in the 2005 General Assembly to allow no-excuse absentee balloting as a way to ease Election Day delays. Similar attempts in the past have been defeated by conservative legislators fearful of absentee-ballot fraud.

Charter Schools
This time we’re talking about the original charter schools, not the ploy by leading Virginia universities to chart their own course.

A new study commissioned by the Department of Education, which compares the achievement of students in charter schools with those attending traditional public schools in five states, has concluded that the charter schools were less likely to meet state performance standards.

Overall, a balanced view of the charter schools issue. Do they work?