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Another Blow To Northern Virginia

Northern Virginia, a cash cow for the Commonwealth and for the United States, can't catch a break from either the state or the federal government on improving its transportation system.

Today, the state Supreme Court ruled that the financing system that was on track to provide $50 million a year for Metro, $25 million a year for the Virginia Railway Express and improvements to Routes 1, 7, 28 and 123 among other roads, must be scrapped.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority's main hope for recovering the lost revenue is for the General Assembly to act before its session ends in Richmond. Anyone who recalls the struggle to win that taxing power last year will understand how difficult Phase 2 will be.

Last month, it was the federal government weighing in on the plan to bring Metrorail service through Tysons and eventually on to Dulles. The Federal Transit Administration practically drove a stake through the heart of that one.

It would be an act of great political skill for Gov. Timothy M. Kaine to preserve federal funding for the rail project, but now he must also revisit the state deal he thought he had sealed in Richmond last year. That appears to be the only option now for supporters of traffic and transit improvements in Northern Virginia.

Here's the way the Northern Virginia Transportation sees the impact of the Supreme Court ruling:

"If this situation is not remedied by the General Assembly, $300 million in annual transportation revenues for Northern Virginia will be lost. This funding would support approximately $1.5 billion in bonds for transportation projects. Many significant Northern Virginia transportation projects are at risk, including:
-- $50 million annually in dedicated funding for Metro capital improvements
-- $25 million annually in dedicated funding for the Virginia Railway Express
-- Improvements to the Fairfax County Parkway, the Prince William County Parkway, and Battlefield Parkway
-- The Crystal City - Potomac Yards and the Columbia Pike Transitway Projects
-- Improvements to address in impacts of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) recommendations
-- Route 1 highway and transit improvement in Prince William County and Fairfax County
-- Route 7 Improvements in Fairfax County and the City of Falls Church
-- Route 28 Improvement in Loudoun County and Manassas
-- Improvements to the King Street, West Falls Church, Huntington and Vienna Metrorail Stations
-- Transit buses to allow for expanded transit service is various parts of Northern Virginia.
-- Route 123 improvements in the City of Fairfax
-- Improvements to Manassas Drive in the City of Manassas Park"

By Robert Thomson  |  February 29, 2008; 3:17 PM ET
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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Comments

This tax was only good to the thousands of commuters living outside Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William, and Loudoun who didn't have to pay a dime, but enjoyed all the benefits of other people's dollar.

Plus, all this did was wet the appetite for developers to build up the outliers.

Posted by: McLean | February 29, 2008 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Maybe the local governments can better spend the ridiculous taxes they already take from us. Fiscal responsibility?

Or, maybe they can just redo our real estate assessments so that our homes are actually taxed higher than last year, even though the homes are worth less. Oh wait, Fairfax already did that.

Posted by: steve | February 29, 2008 4:03 PM | Report abuse

This is great news. A bunch of the money would have been spent on useless projects such as the trolley cars on Columbia Pike in Arlington. What is the advantage of trolley cars over modern natural gas powered buses?

Northern Virginia already sends too much money to the rest of the state. The spineless politicians in Richmond should simply raise the gas tax so that everyone statewide pays their fair share based on how much they drive. This would also encourage less consumption, which is good for the environment. Enough of this playing around with special regional taxing authorities (which would never go away) and abusive driver fees that only Virginians had to pay, etc, etc.

Posted by: Al | February 29, 2008 4:07 PM | Report abuse

maybe it's time that NoVa do what WVa did ages ago....split off from the rest of the state. the rump that remains can contemplate life as one of the poorest states in the union, and figure out how to keep their standard of living up without having the goose that lays the golden egg anymore.

Posted by: IMGoph | February 29, 2008 4:09 PM | Report abuse

You all should direct your anger towards the local governments. It's a one party machine that is running wild spending all sorts of money without any accountability.

This whole myth that it is the whole state against NOVA is a joke. This ruling affects a similar plan in Hampton Roads. Additionally, do you really think some county in far western VA is going around spending all our money? Seriously. Fiscal responsibility.

Posted by: steve | February 29, 2008 4:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm satisfied with the VA Supreme Court ruling.

The residents of NoVa already pay enough taxes to the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, the General Assembly feels the need to disproportionately allocate that money to other parts of the state.


Posted by: Longtime NoVa Resident | February 29, 2008 4:26 PM | Report abuse

I want a refund of the vehicle and registration taxes I have already had to pay under this (over $450 that is needed elsewhere in my budget). How could they go ahead and collect taxes while a case assessing the constitutionality of this whole thing was underway? Seems sneaky to me. I'll gladly pay increased gas taxes if our "leaders" would have the balls to do something about them!

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | February 29, 2008 4:43 PM | Report abuse

This is a great victory for the taxpayers of Northern Virginia. We already send enough money downstate--this would have only made the problem worse.

Posted by: Bob | February 29, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

This is the just desserts that ineffectual politicians like Saslaw, Watts and Hull get for selling out their constituents to an appointive board accountable to no one. Jerry Kilgore unsuccessfuly pitched this atrocity in his gubernatorial campaign and Kaine et al. acquiesced in it anyway. This problem isn't going to get resolved until No. Va. finds representatives with the integrity not to pander to downstate Republicans.

Posted by: Tom - Fairfax | February 29, 2008 4:51 PM | Report abuse

The "I'm taxed too much" whiners and wusses make me sick. We all benefit from living in prosperous Northern Virginia and to expect good transportation services but refuse to pay from them is juvenile. The best revenue source would have been a gas tax but the "R's in Richmond killed that idea. Now the courts have killed this one. See y'all in traffic.

Posted by: Don | February 29, 2008 5:15 PM | Report abuse

It's not only downstate Republicans. It's lack of leadership from Governor Kaine. He should have known this was against the Virginia Constitution. He needs to cut spending or raise taxes. He doesn't want to raise taxes so he lets the General Assembly come up with this cockamamie scheme and doesn't have the leadership to veto it.

Why did he ever give the construction of Metro to Dulles to the airport? The Orange line runs down I-66 and the extension can easily be built by Metro and/or VDOT with the tolls VDOT collects on the Dulles Toll Road.

He's doing to Virginia what he did to Richmond (when he was mayor) and that ain't much.

Posted by: Grifter | February 29, 2008 5:16 PM | Report abuse

The solution seems straightforward enough. The Supreme Court held that the authority as presently established is unconstitutional because the General Assembly enacted seven taxes and then gave the authority discretion as to whether to implement them and as to which ones to implement. If the General Assembly simply said, "Here are the seven taxes, and you must collect all of them," it appears from the Court's opinion that such a plan would be acceptable. The opinion hinges on the fact that the General Assembly gave the discretion to a non-elected body, which the Virginia Constitution prohibits.

Posted by: Rich | February 29, 2008 5:24 PM | Report abuse

I am not an attorney, but if the Court decided the law was not applied in an appropriate manner than so be it.

Unfortunately, the Virgina House is full of bunch of one tooth - Pat Robertson republican clones, who won't authorize a fair and proportional gas tax increase. God forbid those "evil yankee liberals" in NOVA get over on them once again. Many of them are intellectually challenged and base thier votes on the Top Ten Republican Talking Points de jure.

Why not pass a gas tax that has a weighted effect in NOVA and be done with it? This should be able to be accomplished with funding formulas that send money back to the localities. Or the use of rebates could be used to lessen the increase for those in the middle and southern regions. Perhaps the gas tax could be levied based on zip codes, with a higer percentatge levied in NOVA.

Most of all, please dispense with the foolishness of abusive drive fees and the legal contortions of shadow like regional taxing authorities. The FISA Court is more transparent.

Posted by: Fred | February 29, 2008 5:48 PM | Report abuse

The Virginia Supreme Court's decision makes mincemeat of the contorted transportation funding approach devised by the Virginia General Assembly last year with Governor Kaine's deep involvement and agreement. Now it's time to face reality. If the transportation problems in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads need to be fixed (and clearly they do) and it will take significant funds to do it, then we need new tax revenues focused on those problems. The General Assembly has to decide whether or not those areas are important enough to the continued growth and success of the Commonwealth (and clearly they are)that they have to bite the bullet and do it right this time.

Posted by: John | February 29, 2008 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Don, why should we be taxed more? What's being done with the existing tax money? Aren't you curious?

I'm assuming you actually live in Northern Virginia. Any one that has lived in Northern Virginia for some time knows that there is plenty of tax money being generated in NoVA to pay for anything NoVa desires. The GA takes our money distributes it all over the state. That's why you'll see bomb detection units in Botetourt County and bridge upgrades in low-traffic Wythe County before we can get a penny to add a turn lane to Route 7.

However, our taxes are not

Posted by: Longtime NoVa Resident | February 29, 2008 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Want to improve transportation? Here are some reasonable places to tax:

* RAISE THE GAS TAX

* PUT TOLLS ON MAJOR THOROUGHFARES

But, to tax people for selling their homes is completly ridiculous. The NVTA was a corrupt solution to keep the net drain of tax dollars from NoVa to Southern and Western VA.

Posted by: Be_Free | February 29, 2008 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Once again, OUR representatives have failed. We don't "fund" our roads, we would rather sell them to companies and foreign control so they can "toll" tax us for using them and make profits for the rest of the World, instead of doing the right thing and building up America. The gas tax just makes too much sense... yet once again our Representatives won't "allow" us to take responsibility for our traffic... they would rather sell America. Oh to shame Richmond.

Posted by: John | February 29, 2008 8:01 PM | Report abuse

How about Richmond sending us back our fair share of tax revenue? We are getting screwed up here. Seems that all Tim Kaine knows how to do is raise taxes. It is his answer for everything.

Posted by: Peter | February 29, 2008 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Secede, folks...welcome to the state of North Virginia!

Posted by: Vincent | February 29, 2008 11:11 PM | Report abuse

The public and politicians have to face the fact that ROADS need to be PAID for and that can only happen with TAXES or TOLLS.

Posted by: David | March 1, 2008 12:57 AM | Report abuse

This supreme court decision is exactly the point. Elected officials must explain the cost of development to their constituents and not hide it in a secret deal with developers. Everyone deserves to know what out of control growth will cost them as a taxpayer and then vote accordingly.

Posted by: William | March 1, 2008 1:50 AM | Report abuse

Wouldn't it be easier for NoVa to just split from Virginia and become apart of Washington D.C. again? I'm sure they would then be able to generate the funds needed to fund the project, since the reason so many people live in NoVa is because of it's proximity to DC.

Posted by: Pierce | March 1, 2008 3:44 AM | Report abuse

We are talking about a basic human need of transportation, getting from point A to point B. Like at least a handful of you, I spend three hours a day on the ever increasing clogged roads in No. VA. Transportation improvements do not come for free. Having lived here for decades, I seen so must money wasted politically just studying and restudying and road, rail, and transit improvements for years, whereas this money could be used today to start pouring some asphalt, employ some workers, and get the improvements done. Also sadly, I do not see Richmond helping us much, they have not for so long, short of prayer, so it may be better for No. VA to succeed from the rest of Virginia (W. VA did it in the 1860's) so a regional/new state government can address our needs. In the 1930's during the Great Depression, roads, bridges, etc. were built right away. Sadly, I believe No. VA is Corinth, hugely blessed, though many good people, a number are greedy, including a lot of large development firms, which has added to No. VA's parking lot. Some politicians here have a mindset of serving others, but others are as bad as the developers in the interests of money. If I had my choice, I would move from here (but I am not detailing in this public forum the reasons I cannot). We need to again get to the mindset of 09/12/2001 (day after 09/11) where we again are concerned for helping others which in turn help ourselves (what goes around comes around). I am sad to see for the benefit of our environment and so others can take care of basic daily needs, that also some much needed transit improvements may not get funded. In my volunteer hours outside of my day job, I help those in western Fairfax County in need, where public transit is lacking for the most part outside of rush hours, except for one limited bus route. Sadly because of the greed from the recent real estate downfall, local taxes may not be available to help those most in need. I expect some will disagree here, but I expect the majority of you acknowledge God in some form, whatever your belief, and again we need to go back to 09/12/2001.

Posted by: Fairfax220 | March 1, 2008 8:04 AM | Report abuse

it's about time Northern Virginia left the rest of the un-commonwealth. Or, we need to redo the constitution to have home rule. This occurred in Illinois about 50 years ago when downstaters acted toward Chicago the same way we Northern Virginians are being treated by the Virginia southerners. How do we go about this?? Is there someone ready to start a campaign?? Where are the petitions to sign up??

Posted by: richard | March 1, 2008 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Someone explain something to me-the lawmakers in Richmond dont want to fund transportation, they dont want anybody else to do it, what else is there to do to solve our traffic problems? This is why I hate the Republican Party, and why they are losing elections left and right, including their eroding majority in the House.

Posted by: Jonathan | March 1, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

In 2002, NOVA voters had the opportunity to add a one-penny surtax to the existing sales tax. The purpose of theadditional penny tax was for transportation funding.

Thanks to a coalition of environuts who didn't want to see any money spent on new roads (anyone remember the "No Sprawl Tax" signs?), the usual anti-tax zealots, and whiners who claimed "we can't trust Richmond", the referendum was soundly defeated. Meanwhile, the Richmond area got excess highway capacity largely on NOVA's dime.

NOVA's roads and Metro lines have been the biggest losers in this. Does anyone who voted "no" still think you "won"?

Posted by: ceefer66 | March 1, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

I'm encouraged by all the "secession" crybabying from people who don't think they already pay enough taxes. Since secession has no chance of actually happening, maybe those folks'll just get fed up and leave.

Posted by: Mr. Reasonable | March 2, 2008 12:41 AM | Report abuse

I'm puzzled by the people who talk about secession. The US Constitution requires the consent of the Commonwealth of Virginia if a part of Virginia is to split off to become a new state. I see the chance of that happening as being roughly equivalent to the chance of $100 bills coming out of my nostrils when I blow my nose.

Posted by: Rich | March 2, 2008 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Why would anyone want to fund a new road in Northern Virginia? The locals would be up in arms. Not near my back yard!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 3, 2008 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: oak kitchen cabinets | April 10, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

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