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Washington Examiner: N.Va. Lawmakers Leery of Transportation Package Print

BY David Sherfinski, Staff Writer

© Created: March 7, 2011 8:05PM



"Eight to 10 years down the road, we are really
going to regret this[transportation package],"
said Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington.-Steve Helber/AP

Northern Virginia lawmakers are blasting the $4 billion transportation package sought by Gov. Bob McDonnell and approved by the General Assembly, saying it doesn't do enough for the perpetually congested region and could handicap the state's ability to borrow money for other projects over the next decade.

A major point of contention for Northern Virginia lawmakers is the so-called infrastructure bank set up by the legislation.

That bank would issue grants to localities and make loans to private developers for transportation projects, but the rules are set up to ensure that a portion of that money goes to areas of the state that wouldn't be able to complete those projects without state help.

And that could leave Fairfax County and other Northern Virginia localities in the lurch, Fairfax Supervisor Jeff McKay, D-Lee, said. Struggling for years to tame its traffic problems, Northern Virginia already imposes special taxes on commercial and industrial properties to help pay for transportation projects and so would have greater difficulty proving that some projects could not be built without money from the infrastructure bank.

"Any way you look at that, we're not going to be able to pass that litmus test," he said.

State Finance Secretary Richard Brown said the bank is not intended to limit Northern Virginia's opportunity to draw from the fund, and emphasized that, with $283 million in capital, the infrastructure bank is a relatively small part of the overall financing package.

Others, though, argue that by borrowing so heavily now, the state could be limiting its own financing capacity in years to come, after McDonnell has left office.

"Eight, 10 years down the road, we are really going to regret this policy," said Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington.

But McDonnell's administration maintains that, with low interest rates and a sputtering economy in need of jobs, now is exactly the time to start spending on road projects.

"The governor's proposal does expedite the issuance of [debt], and for good reason," Brown said. "What he's trying to do is get more bang for the buck."