- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2002

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is on the verge of insolvency, according to state officials and Gov. Mark R. Warner, who has ordered an immediate audit to discover why the once-fat transportation kitty is now almost empty and why it will now be necessary to cut road and transit spending by at least 20 percent statewide. The cuts will mean, at minimum, significant delays in existing and proposed road projects that will make the Washington region's already exasperating gridlock that much worse. So, voters in Virginia should brace themselves for the other shoe, which is about to drop tax increases.

State lawmakers and Mr. Warner have been hinting with ever-decreasing subtlety that Virginians will be requested to dig deep in order to make up for the gross mismangement of VDOT specifically and the state government in general. A referendum for a regional sales tax has been broached, and Mr. Warner, who has a long history of being favorably inclined toward new and ever-higher taxes, appears to be gaming the current budget crunch and now the VDOT scandal to justify bumping up the sales tax and perhaps other tax increases. "As people across the state see the effects of the cuts," Mr. Warner disingenuously crooned the other day, "voters are going to want to have their say."

This is simply outrageous. The fundamental issue is and always has been the state's profligate use of the resources it currently rakes in not the lack of "contributions" by Virginia's taxpayers. The VDOT mess only highlights this truth. It's not the average Virginian's fault that the state agency squandered its budget and may have even fudged its books. Why should the average Virginian be left holding the bag? A cursory perusal of the state budget reveals to even the casual reader a plenitude of easily dispensed-with surplusage "services" and government programs that could be made leaner, or even dispensed with in their entirety, in order to finance the necessary road improvements VDOT has defaulted on.

If new taxes are the answer every time the state fritters away the resources it has already collected, then accountability is lost, and the floodgates will have been opened. Obviously, VDOT and the spend-happy solons in Richmond need to get their houses in order and not come knocking at the door of Virginia taxpayers for yet another handout.

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