“I may not be a smart man, but I know what bad politics are.”
Yep, I do occasionally refer to the Tao of Gump for wisdom. Unfortunately, the GOP folks in Richmond have chosen not to.
I must take issue with how the GOP is approaching transportation, because they are writing themselves a ticket back to the minority…and all because they refuse to listen to me.
Six weeks ago I bemoaned the fact that the Virginia GOP is not offering a vision of where they want to lead the state. I urged the leadership to find, define, and offer that goal or vision so it could serve as a framework for defining legislative action (or inaction).
They have chosen not to do so, and instead have come up with a patchwork transportation finance plan that tries to be all things to all people, and in doing so will make no one happy. Oh, sorry-it will thrill the democrats, because it plays right into their campaign plans for November.
I will not dive into the minutiae of the budget at this time…if only because it is still rumored. However, no matter how you cut it the GOP has dropped the ball. They are driving the car and they have no idea where they are going.
The Commonwealth of Virginia faces massive transporation problems, problems that will not be solved simply by building more and wider roads. It is, as Jim Bacon once said, an “access and mobility” problem, not a road problem. What is needed is a comprehensive, one shot across the board plan that attempts to touch all the bases from road administration to land use to funding. The longer this matter stays on the table without resolution, the longer the party in the majority in the legislature takes it in the chops.
Despite the various transportation problems, the much of the GOP says we do not need a tax increase. Fine, but explain why so that people who spend hours in their cars will understand. Saying, as Bob Marshall did, that the state has a billion dollar surplus so there is no need for a tax increase, is not enough. Show us how we have enough in the state coffers to meet the state needs. Explain where the economies of scale can be found. If you think there is fraud, waste, mismanagement in VDOT, and money can be saved, tell us. Treat us like sentient creatures and not mushrooms. If that is the case, maybe there is a cauldron of money that can be better used.
But if not, and if in fact VDOT is being run well, and you cannot show that existing funds are adequate, then you need to demonstrate how more funds will not solve the transportation problem…which you currently cannot do as you have no comprehensive plan to offer and no vision of where we need to go.
Finally, if it cannot be shown that more funds are not required, and if more money needs to come in, come to an agreement on a plan that creates a dedicated source through sales tax or gas tax or something, but do it all in one shot and get it over with. The longer the wound bleeds, the worse things will get. By drafting a plan that allows for all these fee increases the GOP is tacitly saying more money is needed, but it remains to be seen if the plan will produce enough revenue to meet state needs…and each year the issue is not resolved, or perceived as being resolved, the more blame the party in the majority catches.
Failure to get a handle on the matter perpetuates the idea that the GOP has no real idea what it wants to do. It also denies the GOP the chance to say we are the party “that did x”, and create a strong public perception. The GOP can be the party that “kept taxes low”-except that everyone needs be on board. The GOP can be the party that “had the courage to attack the transporation issue”-except that everyone needs to be on board. If the GOP does not hang together, they will most assuredly hang separately, and house and senate candidates will be picked off in the fall.
Had the GOP attempted to offer that unified vision of where they want to lead the state, then they would have the framework to better push their funding plan. If the GOP attempted to offer a unified vision, then folks could look at the plan, see where it fit the big picture, and would likely be more supportive than they are because they could see how it fits the big picture.
But the GOP has not done so. Instead they seem to think legislating is like a box of chocolates-and they would be correct, because the public never seems to know what it is going to get…and the Democrats seem to always get the good candy,
You see, it is not enough to simply stand for something…you have to able to communicate it the public. Hence the double problem-the Va GOP is unable to communicate to the public what they stand for because they do not seem to know what they stand for.
And that is bad politics no matter what movie you steal lines from.