Assembly 2011: Transportation plan passes House
The House of Delegates has passed the Governor’s 4 billion dollar transportation spending proposal. Craig Carper reports.
The bulk of the funding comes from about 3 billion dollars in borrowed money. Democrats say this is an unacceptable amount of debt for the state to carry.
Democratic Delegate Ken Plum of Reston.
Plum: It'll essentially use up our credit authorization for 25 years, because that’s how long it’s going to take these to pay back. Now why is it we haven’t been issuing bonds? Why don't we have the money? Because we’re paying off the last bright idea of using bonds. We've been paying off the bonds, now that we’re close to paying those off, we can issue a little more credit. But we need to issue credit very frugally. So you’re going to build yourself a few roads and for 25 years you’re gonna pay for those roads, and I don’t know how the roads are up your way, but they don’t last 25 years where I am and so you end up paying for a road that no longer exists.
Republican Delegate Dave Albo of Fairfax.
Albo: This is exactly the time that you want to be borrowing money to build roads. In fact, to do otherwise would be costing your constituents hundreds of millions of dollars.
Since September ’06, construction project prices in this country have dropped 40 percent. Rolling Road in my district, a two lane road, it carries about 2,600 cars an hour during rush hour; we’ve been trying to widen it since 1970. It has been designed and the money’s been yanked three separate times since I’ve been in office. It’s a very, very important project for people who live in my neighborhood. The last time we got it designed, it was supposed to cost 28 million dollars. The funding got yanked. Now, according to federal highways, if we put that up for bid it would come in at 40 percent less, which is 20 million. Interest rates today on government bonds are about 3.2 to 3.5 percent. At the time Rolling Road was built, the interest rates were about 4.5 percent, so if you do what we want you to do, Rolling Road costs you 30.37 million over the course of a 25-year bond. If you do what the gentleman of Fairfax wants you to do and wait 10 years when the costs are back up and interest rates are back up, it costs you 46.6 million. We are saving the taxpayers almost 17 million dollars just on Rolling Road to build it today and Rolling Road is one tiny little project in the big long list of projects you’ve seen on the web that the Governor is proposing. To build roads now, when interest rates are 3.5 percent, when the cost of construction is 40 percent less, saves the taxpayers hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. In my opinion, it is fiscally irresponsible not to build roads now.
Democratic Delegate and House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong.
Armstrong: You know what we’re doing? We’re robbing schools! We’re taking money away from police officers. Just a few minutes ago, some of my guys from Patrick County, one of my friends who's on the board of supervisors, who would agree with me that building route 58 is darned important. But I’m not stealing money from Patrick County school kids to do it. Over the next ten years, we’ve got to find 55,000 slots for college kids in this state.
I have said on this floor, for however many days we’ve been in session, I guess about three weeks, and almost every day I’ve heard about the big bad federal government and how awful they are and how they need to fix themselves. Do you know what this bill is based on? The promise that the federal government is going to send us money to pay for these GARVEE bonds. I sure wish somebody would give me Eric Cantor’s address so I can write him and say please don’t cut that because that’s all I’ve been hearing lately is how we’re gonna cut the funding to GARVEE. And who’s going to be left holding the bag when the money pipe shuts off coming from Washington? Us.
If we pass House Bill 2527, the next five administrations will have only 50 million dollars a year to ever spend in bonding authority on transportation. The next five governors are gonna need to borrow money to get cab fare back to the mansion.
The bill eventually passed on a largely party line vote 62 to 35. The Governor says the package will fund about 900 road and mass transit projects over the next three years.
The Senate version of the bill has passed committee and will likely go to the floor for debate today.
Craig Carper, WCVE News, Capitol Square