- The Washington Times - Monday, January 31, 2000

More roads, not more taxes

That we need new roads is beyond dispute. Population growth in the Washington area most especially in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties has far outpaced the existing transportation infrastructure. All sensible people agree that something must be done before both quality of life and economic growth are stunted by gridlock.

What we don't need, however, are vast new taxing powers for local authorities to finance the construction of those new roads an idea put forward by several area lawmakers, who apparently think the government isn't taking enough out of our pockets already. Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore has thus far rejected out-of-hand any proposal that would grant yet more taxing authority to county or municipal authorities and reiterated his belief that funds for his $2.5 billion, six-year transportation plan can be found elsewhere. Mr. Gilmore's political opponents have gone on a tear since then, implying that vital services for the needy and, of course, "the children" will suffer unless politicians can get their hands on more of Virginians' hard-earned money.

But Virginia has been hauling in the loot hand over fist during the past few years as have other state governments, and, of course, the federal government. A multi-million dollar surplus in the coffers ought to take the pressure off taxpayers for once a position Mr. Gilmore, to his great credit, has consistently defended. The governor has already found more than $590 million in the general fund that can be allocated to finance 90 projects across the state. Monies to finance the remainder of Mr. Gilmore's $2.5 billion plan would come from, among other sources, Virginia's share in the tobacco settlement, existing federal funds, and more efficient collection of the existing motor fuels tax. "We kept working on this until we could come forward with a plan that genuinely sets a new direction. It's exciting and innovative, doesn't raise taxes and gives us hope and promise for a new direction for transportation in the future," Mr. Gilmore said.

Among elected officials in this era of economic boom and record surpluses, only Mr. Gilmore shows any evidence of grasping that state funds come from taxpayers who have essentially overpaid/been overcharged by the government for the services they receive. That is what a "surplus" means. Accordingly, he is doing all he can to prevent these funds from being slurped down the gullet of the Richmond Leviathan and used instead for something purposeful.

If Virginia taxpayers can't get a refund for the overpayment of taxes they've been forced to hand over, at least this once they may actually get something for their money: badly needed new road construction. Let's hope Mr. Gilmore can stay the course and continue to fend off the grasping politicos and their allies among developers, who admit no limit to the amount of cash they feel justified in snatching from the hands of those who earned it.

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