By Tony Howard, President & CEO, Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce
It is too bad the Virginia Senate delayed by one day their historic vote on an $860 million
annual plan to address the Commonwealth’s transportation funding crisis.
In doing so, they missed the opportunity that their colleagues in the House of Delegates enjoyed, which was to strike a blow against the tyranny of traffic congestion on George Washington’s birthday.
How fitting it would have been for both our senators and delegates to act together to oppose the oppressive taxation, without representation, that congestion imposes on Virginia’s drivers on the birthday of a man who led a war of revolution over that same grievance.
Though it took an extra day, a majority of Virginia’s senators and delegates made some real Virginia history of their own.
By overwhelming margins, senators and delegates approved a statewide transportation plan to fund construction and maintenance on Virginia’s roads, railways and ports. They also approved an additional $350 million annually to address Northern Virginia’s specific needs.
In approving this measure, Virginia’s legislators faced down some pretty formidable obstacles and a history of legislative failure on this issue. And they did do in a convincing bi-partisan, bi-cameral and geographically diverse way.
While this legislation is not perfect – for few human endeavors are ever perfect. But it does meet several important objectives.
That is, it draws on a variety of broad-based revenue sources to generate new, significant and sustainable funds to improve Virginia’s congested highways, rail systems, ports and other aspects of a healthy, 21st century multi-modal transportation system.
As business owners and leaders who contribute significant tax revenues to local, state and federal governments, Loudoun County Chamber members take seriously the decision to raise taxes and fees for any purpose.
But as successful business leaders, chamber members know that investment in infrastructure is necessary to support the job and economic growth and a stronger commercial tax base that Virginia will need to remain competitive in a 21st century economy
From Gov. Bob McDonnell to the Republican and Democratic leadership in the General Assembly, Virginia’s elected leaders did something that is considered nearly impossible in the political climate that prevails in America.
They compromised. They negotiated hard, but in good faith, agreeing to the other side’s demands in an effort to forge an agreement.
In doing so, many of them faced withering attacks and even threats from some of their political allies, who oppose any compromise as an abdication of their political ideology.
Rather than maintain a blind allegiance to ideology, 25 senators and 60 delegates remembered their allegiance to the citizens of Virginia, and their pledge to seek solutions to the issues that threaten our economy and our quality of life.
These elected leaders set aside their differences and partisan interests to come together to forge a historic agreement to help solve Virginia’s long term transportation funding needs.
History will reward their courage and conviction.
For this shows that it is possible for America’s leaders – from different parties, different regions and different backgrounds – can pull together, work together and compromise to reach solutions that will preserve our country’s greatness.
Congress should take note.