Transportation battle vital to Virginia's businesses, AG says

John O'Brien Mar. 7, 2007, 1:28pm


WASHINGTON, D.C. - When Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell says his state's transportation system is at a crossroads, in his mind he probably pictures a crowded intersection in need of a few more driving lanes.

"We really are at a crossroads. There's barely enough (funding) for maintenance now," McDonnell told Legal NewsLine at the National Association of Attorneys General spring meeting. "A new remedy is needed if we want to continue to grow."

Last year, Forbes magazine ranked Virginia as the state with the friendliest business climate. To maintain that ranking, McDonnell said fixing the state's crowded roadways is imperative.

Recently, the General Assembly approved a budget that would help, McDonnell said. However, Democratic Gov. Timothy Kaine has said he will rewrite it.

"We've been really excited about being ranked the most business-friendly state, but to continue that growth we gotta have a transportation infrastructure that will sustain business-development," McDonnell said.

The budget relies on $2.5 billion in bonds and a yearly $184 million from the state's general fund, which finances schools, police and programs for the poor, a report in the Richmond Times-Dispatch says.

It does not provide a statewide tax increase, though Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia officials could approve their own higher taxes and fees to finance transportation projects.

A Northern Virginia Sen. feels the bill is short-sighted and is intended to help Republicans come election time, and Kaine called it "a bad bill," the report says. McDonnell says it is a solution to a bad problem.

For months, he has been urging the General Assembly to put more money into the transportation problem, and called the measures recently passes "significant reform."

"The problem is there are a couple of areas of congestion that are negatively affecting the quality of life," he added. "People are having to spend 2 1/2-3 hours a day in their cars."

He's not holding his breath that the bill will escape the Governor's office as is, though.

"We make a weak pitch to bring businesses in without a comprehensive plan," McDonnell said.

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