July 10, 2008
As usual, the Senate and House of Delegates in Virginia are having a hard time reaching a compromise on transportation funding. The Republican-led House submitted a bill to create regional taxing authorities for funding roads, but it was a non-starter. According to the Washington Post, it's all because of "Partisan Bickering." Well, there is some of that, no doubt, but there is also a very real difference of philosophy. Majority Leader Morgan Griffith said he won't "play games" with Gov. Kaine, whose tax-hike proposal seems calculated to pin the blame on the GOP. Actually, I would agree that the most obvious (and fairest) source of revenue would be a hike in gasoline taxes, but with prices creeping above $4 a gallon, that is highly unlikely. They should have done it last year, or the year before.
Folks with long memories (that's what they say about elephants, at least) may recall that regional transportation funding was one of gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore's main campaign pledges in 2005. At first glance, it is a compelling solution to the perennial clash of priorities between the (sub-)urban and rural parts of the Old Dominion. The problem is that there are no constitutional units of government between the state level and the local level. Creating regional transportation boards composed of appointed members would immediately raise the issue of "no taxation without representation," one of the main grievances upon which this country was founded.
Brandon Bell (the former state senator) sent an open letter to the governor and legislative leaders, proposing that "[a]ll responsibility for local roads should be shifted to our localities..." It's a good starting point, but any solution would involve a complex set of bargains among rival interests, and that seems unlikely given the current political landscape -- especially the weak leadership in Richmond. Bell says that "doing nothing is not an option," but I'm afraid it is a very likely outcome. It's possible that, in the wake of a failure to enact legislation, a political shakeout would ensue that would decide the matter once and for all. But my general position remains the same: I dislike dipping into general funds to subsidize one transportation sector at the expense of another (e.g., railroads). That is why the Republicans' resistance to Gov. Kaine may well serve the public interest.
Senator James "Born Fighting" Webb declared on Tuesday that he is not willing to run as the vice presidential candidate along with Barack Obama. (See Washington Post. This news came as great comfort to Daniel Drezner, who resented the fact that, when he was testifying to a Senate committee recently, Webb was "bound and determined not to hear the answer I was giving him at one point." Well, the freshman senator never said he was "born listening," did he? Combative politicians like him tend to make up their minds early on, and don't care much about opposing points of view. Drezner's main objection to Webb, however, is his anti-trade position, which is a seductively tempting route to take for many politicians in a recessionary election year. (Does anyone still remember the Smoot-Hawley tariff? Total disaster.)
Among other Virginian politician with national aspirations, Mark Warner was once considered a prospective V.P candidate, but he is too busy running against Jim Gilmore for the U.S. Senate right now. Gov. Tim Kaine, would have to give up the last year of his term as governor, and that seems unlikely.
Recent reports suggest that newly elected RPV Chairman Jeff Frederick may want to keep his seat in the House of Delegates after all. I was having a hard time figuring out his intentions, but Brandon Bell reports that Frederick is raising money for a possible reelection bid next year. He speculates about the reasons, including the possibility that Frederick wanted to serve as both party chairman and executive director (a salaried position), but was discouraged from this by his supporters. Does he want to have his cake and eat it too, or is this fund-raising on behalf of his wife as a candidate? Hat tip to Shaun Kenney, who says he is "largely disappointed with the replacements (and non-Virginians) at RPV," and worries about "the flight of all the heavy-hitting fundraisers from RPV ." Come back, John Hager! Come back, Charlie Judd! Come back, Fred Malek!
Finally, Megan alerts us to a "grass-roots" viral Web phenomenon: "Republitarian for President!?" (It's a faux news report do-it-yourself video; pretty cool.) Well, Myron got more votes running for Clerk of Courts than I did running for Staunton Republican Chairman, so why not?
Obviously, I've been out of the blogospheric loop for a while, and am slowly getting caught up. Hey, baseball will do that to you!