- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 27, 2007

RICHMOND — A major rewrite awaits the statewide transportation plan the General Assembly passed last week, and a “pocket veto” awaits it if legislators reject the changes, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said yesterday.

The governor also said in his monthly radio program on WTOP radio (103.5 FM) that he and local elected officials from Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads have to closely review the regional packages in the 106-page transportation reform bill to clearly grasp its effects on their localities.

Mr. Kaine said he has three areas of concern to address in the 30 days he has to amend or veto legislation: Making sure the regional plans are workable and palatable to the local governments that will have to implement them; ensuring rural areas get their share of road aid; and meeting an annual commitment to use general funds to service about $2.5 billion in transportation debt.

Legislators will return to the Capitol on April 4 for one day to consider Mr. Kaine’s vetoes and amendments, including his alterations to the tumultuous and politically charged transportation issue that dominated the 2007 legislative session.

“Some of them are so critical that if there aren’t amendments, there’s the certain possibility of a veto after they leave,” Mr. Kaine said.

For an amendment to be approved, it must receive a majority vote in both the 100-member House and the 40-member Senate. If the votes fall short, Mr. Kaine has the prerogative under the state constitution to veto the legislation later, killing it with no opportunity for lawmakers to intervene again.

Mr. Kaine had suggested late last week, as details of the plan became public in the hours before the legislature adjourned, that he could not let some portions of the bill become law.

But Mr. Kaine was more specific in his hourlong radio call-in program.

“The idea is to borrow — to issue $2.5 billion worth of bonds — but to pay off the bonds by taking money from the general fund that we use to pay for schools, health care and public safety,” Mr. Kaine said. “So that is a real problem.”

When asked by the program’s host whether it’s a deal breaker, Mr. Kaine said: “It is. You know, I generally learn not to throw words around like veto and things like that, but I have said that part of the bill is, I think, just not responsible.”

Mr. Kaine said another possibly fatal problem with the bill is a regional package that city and county officials in Northern Virginia consider unacceptable.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly said requiring local governments in the D.C. suburbs to take over planning and construction of secondary roads, now the state’s responsibility, is a “poison pill.”

“That is a little-known piece of the bill. There are all kinds of things hiding out in here and one is, ‘Hey, raise your own taxes for your own roads and, oh, by the way, also take over all the responsibility for the stuff the state’s doing for you now,’ ” Mr. Connolly said in an interview with WTOP.

Local governments have to participate for the regional plans to work, and none is more critical than Fairfax County, whose 1 million residents make it Virginia’s most populous locality and which accounts for one-seventh of the state’s population.

The regional plans allow for Northern Virginia to generate about $400 million and Hampton Roads to raise about $200 million a year for targeted projects in their regions, the most populous and traffic choked in Virginia.

Delegate Timothy D. Hugo, Fairfax County Republican and one of the authors of the Northern Virginia transportation package, disputed Mr. Connolly’s contention that the bill would force localities to build their own secondary roads.

“I just don’t think he’s right on that,” Mr. Hugo said, adding that the road construction burden would apply only to localities that establish and impose “impact fees” on new home construction outside already developed areas.

Mr. Kaine said it will be important for local officials to fully assess the consequences of the bill.

“It may well be that there are particular folks in local government who don’t understand everything that’s in this bill. I mean, it only came out late Saturday night,” Mr. Kaine said.

“But Loudoun [County] has already said they’re not going to put the taxes and fees in place; Prince William [County] has already said that and Fairfax has now said they’re not going to do it. If those three don’t do it, this plan is not a plan,” Mr. Kaine said.

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