Today, Republicans and Democrats joined together to pass the first new significant sustainable transportation funding and reform bill in Virginia in 27 years. Crafted and led by Republicans, the bill received the votes of over 60% of legislators in both houses.
Virginians worked together across party and regional lines to find common ground to solve one of our Commonwealth’s most intractable problems. We got results. And the result is $3.5 billion in new transportation funding over the next 5 years, an estimated 35% reduction in the tax on gas at the pump, a shorter commute for you, and the strengthening of Virginia’s economic competitiveness.
This bill is a compromise. It had to be. As you know the House of Delegates has a strong Republican majority. But the Senate is tied, 20-20, and the Lieutenant Governor cannot vote on a transportation funding bill. That means to get any major bill passed, everyone would have to find common ground. The nature of a compromise is no one gets every policy they want. There are things I like and don’t like in this bill, I’m sure it’s the same for you too, but it solves a longstanding problem after years and years of inaction. For 27 years you’ve sat in traffic as too many have waited for a “perfect” bill. That failure to act has cost you and the Commonwealth dearly.
Every year that Richmond has failed to act has added up to a bigger and bigger hidden transportation tax that you are paying. The Texas Transportation Institute found that our failure to approve new transportation funding, and the resulting congestion, costs every motorist in Northern Virginia $1400 a year; every driver in Virginia Beach $877 a year; and every commuter in Richmond $581 a year. Your commute has gotten longer as political positions have gotten more divided. Every pothole you’ve hit, and bill for repairs you’ve received, is a result of the chronic failure of lawmakers to find a solution and pass it. Those are hidden taxes that you’ve been paying for years.
Virginia’s economy depends upon our transportation system. Without good roads, rail, transit and bridges we cannot attract the new businesses that will create the good-paying jobs our citizens need and deserve. A continued failure to address transportation would leave the Commonwealth less competitive economically, shrink our tax base and endanger our well-earned reputation as the best state in the nation in which to do business. In fact, just last year CNBC dropped Virginia to 3rd in its annual ranking of “Best States for Business” in large part because of our repeated inability to agree on how to properly fund transportation. We plummeted from 10th to 33rd in the specific category of “Transportation and Infrastructure.” That is unacceptable. I ran and was blessed to be elected on a pledge to make Virginia a jobs-magnet and do everything I could to help our state attract more employers so our citizens could get the good jobs they need and deserve. This transportation plan helps us do that. Conservatives believe we must grow our economy by allowing the private sector to thrive and create. We believe in paying as you go and in not running up high levels of debt. That is how you create new revenue. But that can’t happen if we don’t provide private-sector job creators with the infrastructure they must have to be successful.
As a result of this plan, thousands of construction and maintenance projects around the state will be funded, from widening I-64 between Newport News and Williamsburg, widening Route 28 in Northern Virginia, bringing down tolls on the Dulles Toll Road and advancing the Silver Line, bringing Amtrak service to Roanoke, and helping to build the Coalfields Expressway in Southwest Virginia. (You can see a full list of projects that will be funded by this bill here.) Thousands of new jobs will be created. Before this vote it was projected that by the year 2018 we would have been transferring $500 million meant for construction to just fund simple maintenance projects. There would have been virtually no new money available for new construction projects. Now, this problem has been solved for the foreseeable future.
You elected me to come to Richmond and focus on growing our economy, creating jobs, and fixing the problems you face in your daily lives. This session we have dramatically reformed our K-12 system with more accountability, choice, and innovation. We reformed government, eliminated budget gimmicks and doubled the rainy day fund. The last few years we have made our unemployment rate the lowest in the Southeast, created $1.4 billion in surpluses, reformed our pension system to save $9 billion, dropped yearly average tuition increases to the lowest in a decade, toughened our criminal laws and cut the size and scope of state government.
However, even with all that progress on a wide array of issues, without a modern and well-funded transportation system our future economic growth would remain in jeopardy. Private sector job-creators would have a harder time moving goods to market, expanding their enterprises, and hiring new workers. And your commute would just grow longer, the money you waste sitting in traffic would increase, and your quality of life would diminish. We could not afford to let that happen.
Throughout this debate, when many said we couldn’t get a transportation bill passed, so many of you stood up and advocated for passage. You called your legislators, you talked to your neighbors, and you made a difference. Today we’ve shown that there is still a ‘Virginia Way.’ Richmond is not Washington. In Richmond, we cut out rhetoric and work together to fix problems and get results.
I can’t thank you enough for your support of this bill and our Administration. Today’s vote will make our economy stronger, and Virginia an even better place to call home. Thank you, so much, for everything that you do for this great Commonwealth.
Governor of Virginia
PS: Remember if you want to see what this bill means in your community please visit the project list page HERE. In every region of Virginia, this bill will mean new roads, new bridges, shorter commutes and more jobs.