Another Take on the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority’s Town Hall Meeting

travel.pngThis morning the Prince William Extra added its perspective on the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) Town Hall Meeting at George Mason University’s Prince William campus on evening of the 28th of June (here). This report both emphasized the controversy and the wondrous power of taxes to do good.

The Prince William Extra noted that the majority of the speakers spoke in favor of the NVTA’s new tax and spend authority. However, as I noted in my own report, most of the attendees represented business interests. That, I suspect, is why the Post’s reporter quickly moved on to the controversy. So we have a quote from Supervisor Martin Nohe emphasizing the NVTA’s regional approach.

“The group that we had last night was thinking regionally, which fit right into what we are doing with the NVTA,” Nohe said Friday.

Then the report moves on to Delegate Bob Marshall‘s attack on the constitutionality of the NVTA’s newfound powers and Nohe’s counter.

Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William), who has consistently spoken out against the authority, did so again at Thursday’s meeting. Marshall has questioned whether the authority has the constitutional right to raise local taxes because it was created by the General Assembly and its members are appointed, not elected.

“We take an oath to uphold the constitution,” Marshall said in May about the authority. “If the process is corrupt, the product will be corrupt.”

Nohe said he thinks the authority is within its legal right to approve taxes. The Virginia Attorney General’s Office said in a letter to Marshall that the taxes are constitutional.

What was most pathetic, however, were the quotes from Robert Chase of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance.

“That some people oppose these taxes and fees and, in some cases, any new taxes and fees comes as no surprise,” Robert Chase of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, a business-resident group advocating regional transportation projects, said in a written statement to the authority.

Chase said residents have spoken in support of new transportation funds in elections and by urging legislators to act on the issue.

“Our legislators have responded, and it is now time for the authority members to adopt and make these measures operational — not because they are perfect, but because they represent the best opportunity we will have for many years to invest in projects that can make an immediate difference,” he said.

Supposedly, the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance represents business groups. Yet here we have a business group advocating a wholly socialist solution for our transportation infrastructure. The Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance advocates regional planning, yet the very notion of giving a group of politicians total control of funding and spending undermines that concept. When we give politicians total control, system design is driven by politics, what the special interests want, not user needs.

We have an alternative, let users pay when they have gotten what they want. Much of the legislation is already in place. In addition to HB3202, during the last session the General Assembly also passed this bill, HB2314 sponsored by Delegate Scott Lingamfelter. HB2314 allows the collection of tolls on components of Interstate Highways. We could use such tolls for much needed improvements. Moreover, in 2006 Delegate Bob Marshall sponsored HB201, which allows adjoining counties, cities, and towns to enter into agreements for the construction and operation of toll highways, bridges, and ferries within their boundaries. Instead of wasting our money, why doesn’t the NVTA take the lead in coordinating such projects?