McDonnell and Deeds-How Much Do We Really Need?

As the fall campaign continues I am having one of those moments where I focus on what the candidates are not saying.  In doing so, they are finding common ground, but it is not good ground for the state.

Both candidates say Virginia needs more money to solve transportation problems. 

McDonnell talks about selling ABC stores (which as Norm Leahy pointed out, is not nearly as bad an idea as the Demos make it out to be) for immediate cash.  

Deeds says we need a billion dollars or more which will be found through the magic of a bi partisan committee.

I keep waiting  for each or either of them to say how much is needed to deal with transportation.  I don’t mean these general estimates, but a real dollar number.  Something that says:

1. We need x to meet our transportation needs, and here is how we are going to specifically spend that money…
2. We currently get/spend y amount…
3. We are going to make cuts, administrative or otherwise (z)
4. Based on x-(y-z)=how much we really need to meet our transportation goals.

And this is before we get to issues like zoning and land use and all the ancillary issues that impact transportation.

Many say that government should run like a business. I disagree-I say government should run like a household.

In families across Virginia, budgeting goes on. Real budgeting…how much income you will have, and what expenses. Is there enough? If yes, how will you use the balance. If no, how will make up the deficit.  Maybe you renovate, maybe you don’t.  Maybe you take a vacation, maybe you don’t.  But you have to budget.

Government-and in the last 18 years or so, especially Virginia Government-functions on the idea that we have what we have and the only question is how much more do we want to get? I find it interesting that despite the budget shortfalls of the last several years years-you know, the ones that Jody Wagner and her team repeatedly failed to forsee, and despite the heroic efforts of the GOP HOD delegation to keep taxes down, there have been no enraged reports of fundamental government responsibilities going unfulfilled.

The obvious exception is the showboat closing of the various rest stops by The Gov, a move meant to draw ire up on the GOP for not agreeing to a tax increase but that instead drew ire upon The Gov….who I am sure has a cocktail with his father-in-law each weekend to commiserate how neither of them got/gets proper appreciation.

No, neither of them has offered the hard line numbers on what it will take to get where they want to lead us…and I doubt either of them are going to do that before election day.

More is the pity.


3 thoughts on “McDonnell and Deeds-How Much Do We Really Need?

  1. Bwana:
    The figure I have is somewhat old, but comes from a point of reference of someone familiar with the transportation needs. In 1999, VDOT came out with a 2020 transportation plan, it included rail and roads, at that time in those dollars, it was projected that the Commonwealth would need to spend $50 billion over the next 20 years in order to catch up – not allowing for future needs, that is just to catch up. It was a staggering sum and some projects have been realized, while others never came to fruittion.
    Unfortunately I do not have any recent figure, but I would hazzard to guess that the figure has increased. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help to you. Take care,


  2. Well, it’s not so much that I want to know the exact number-although that would be nice-but I want some idea from these folks that they know where they want to lead us and how much it will cost to get there.

  3. The amount we need is not the amount that the bureaucrats will ask for.

    As a former Comptroller with our DoD, I can attest the budget process is packed with inflated cost estimates.

    Just one example: A contractor was contacted by a citizen for an estimate to move a house a few feet to accommodate a new road. The estimate: $25,000.

    The same contractor when contacted by a state agency about moving the very same house quoted: $175,000.

    Add to this, the fact that agency administrators are in the habit of doubling their estimates to keep from running short, and you get these gargantuan budget requests.

    Another monkey wrench in the process is that agency administrators are rewarded for spending (they call it executing funds), not for saving money. So, if an agency has money left over at the end of the year, they try to quickly execute the funds, rather than admit that they overestimated needs.

    Competent elected officials know this game and will ask for a bottom-up review of each agency and then seek targeted cuts (not across the board cuts) to redirect needed funds, while rewarding managers who spend public funds wisely.

    To answer the question of how much do we need, the bureaucrats say, “How much can we get?” The right answer is to make the bureaucrats show where they can find the money within the existing budget, then discuss the possibility of raising more money to make-up shortages, if any.

    This is why Mr. Deeds’ statement that a bipartisan review by the Governor, key legislators and staff, is the only realistic approach, and not a laundry list like that proposed by Mr. McDonnell (although the list does offer some creative funding ideas that would have to receive consensus by a bipartisan commission, to be enacted).

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