Tuesday, February 27, 2007

They Can't Really be that Dumb

I've not written in a while -- laziness. But today's editorial in the Washington Post was either so dishonest or so stupid (or both) that I had to comment. The Post argues that because of the great transportation needs in NoVA, the GOP-lead General Assembly should have passed statewide tax increases.

Of course, any statewide tax increase results in Fairfax County residents sending dollars to Richmond in order to receive pennies back. Therefore, using the Post's logic, we would need to pay much more to improve our traffic mess with Kaine's approach than with the bill passed by the General Assembly.

How stupid are these people? Did anyone there ever taken a basic course in state and local government? Do these people ever read their own newspaper? Are they so liberal and committed to tax increases that facts are to be ignored? The money I save by not subscribing to the Post pays dividends daily.


Monday, February 05, 2007

Fairfax County Residents Are Their Own Worst Enemy

This is a repeat of a post I put on Baconsrebellion.com. It says what needs to be said, so I'm repeating it here.

Fairfax, Arlington and Loudoun, but not Prince William, regularly get hosed on state support for K-12 education. For example, according to Senator Chichester's committee staff, the Warner-Chichester tax increases cost Fairfax County taxpayers 107.8 M (net) for 2005. According to FCPS, it received less than $14 M in new money. The schools did receive more than $100 M in 2005 from the State, but that was related to the biennial re-benchmarking of the SOQs. That would have occurred even without the tax increases. The new money above and beyond the SOQ changes was less than $14 M. I asked. Thus, it cost $107 M to get an additional $14 M.

I understand that the situations for Arlington and Loudoun were quite similarly bleak. Prince William, on the other hand, does better under the formula and, as a result thereof, Prince William's senators and delegates have not been interested in rocking the boat. Do you blame them?

The fault lies with the rubes that live in NoVA, especially Fairfax County. We may think that we are smart, successful and sophisticated, but RoVA plays us for fools.

Very few Fairfax County residents, including our crackerjack business community, have the knowledge and understanding of the rules of the game to be successful. We rant and rave about the bad deal we get from Richmond on education funding, but then lobby vigorously for more of the same. Just as with transportation, there are many people in Fairfax County who think that gremlins fill the General Fund, rather than Fairfax County residents. They ask for more money from Richmond without understanding that they receive only cents on the dollar. Unless the sophisticates in RoVA are willing to take less (ha, ha), it costs us "rubes" dollars to get pennies. Yet, the typical resident of Fairfax County would support higher state taxes to get pennies back, rather than higher local taxes that at least stay here.

The Warner-Chichester tax increases may have been good for Virginia, but they were a disaster for Fairfax County. The legislators who voted for them know this and should be ashamed of themselves. Fortunately, their constituents are hicks and won't hold them accountable.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Virginia is Late on Revised Cost Data for Silver Line

The Federal Transit Agency (FTA), which controls the purse strings over the federal share of the Silver Line's funding, has indicated that the Commonwealth of Virginia is more than one month late in providing updated cost information for the project. The delay was disclosed in a letter to Congressmen Moran and Davis. The missing information is required before any final FTA funding decision can be made.

One possible explanation for the delay is that the Commonwealth is worried that the figures will not support federal funding. The project's earlier review concluded that the cost/benefit ratio for the multi-billion project was on the margin. Meanwhile, construction costs continue to escalate. Is the Governor's team scrambling to make cuts or find cost savings?

How about opening the project for bids? Why not return the route entirely to the Dulles Toll Road, with a single station for Tysons at Route 7? The landowners could then construct their own intra-Tysons circulator with light rail or buses.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Washington Post Ignores Fairfax County

The Washington Post is doing a superb job exposing sweetheart deals between developers/landowners and government officials in Loudoun County. But how come the Post is silent as to those same relationships and deals in Fairfax County?

How much money has West Group and other big Tysons Corner landowners given Governor Tim Kaine & BoS Chairman Gerry Connolly, both of whom support the Silver Line boondoggle that will cost taxpayers and Dulles Toll Road users billions and won't improve traffic congestion one bit? In fact, if the Silver Line triggers massive rezoning, we could see 500,000 to 600,000 additional vehicle trips daily. I suspect that the political party labels of the main players has a lot to do with the different reporting standards.

GOP corruption is bad; Democratic corruption is hidden. That's the journalism standards of the Post. Thank goodness for small local newspapers.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Lawsuit Challenging Transfer of Dulles Toll Road

Reportedly, a lawsuit has been filed in Circuit Court in Richmond that challenges the transfer of the Dulles Toll Road to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. No other details were made available to me.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

What Did the State Auditor Say about VDOT? (Part II)

What else did the state auditor have to say about the massive problems with VDOT and the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB)?

"The Commonwealth lacks a statement of clear objectives regarding transportation plans. Most of the plans designed and implemented were in response to a specific problem rather than part of an intricate statewide plan with specific and measurable objectives. Specific objectives for improving the Commonwealth’s transportation system include providing a seamless transportation network throughout the state by improving interconnections between all transportation modes. Coordination between all Transportation agencies is an integral part to the future success of the Commonwealth’s Transportation system." Page 7.

Another serious defect exists that causes waste and inefficiency. Why should we pay higher taxes until these problems are fixed? Would an investment banker give funds to a company that had this type of problem? Certainly not. Why shouldn't taxpayers be equally well protected?

Friday, January 05, 2007

What Did the State Auditor Say about VDOT? (Part I)

Governor Kaine, the loonies in the state Senate and the tax-happy crowd want us all to pay higher taxes for transportation. While I would agree we could use more money for transportation, there are a number of serious issues that should be addressed before Virginians pay higher taxes. Here's one of those problems.

VDOT has no internal cost controls. This is what the state auditor's December 2005 report had to say about this issue.

"Once the Board [the Commonwealth Transportation Board] completes and approves the SYIP [Six Year Improvement Plan], the Department uploads the plan into the Financial Management System (FMS). Project managers are to use the information provided by FMS to track project expenditures; however, the system does not provide any controls to prevent a project from exceeding its approved budget. Rather, it is the responsibility of individual project managers to ensure actual expenditures are within the approved budget. Transportation should consider the implementation of this type of budgetary constraint in the current upgrade of the Financial Management System." Page 9.

This is a very serious problem that results in wasted tax dollars. We should see a second audit to see the progress, if any, that VDOT has made before we pay higher taxes. Pouring more money into an agency that has no mechanism to control its cost is not good public policy.