Candidate Deeds finally has articulated his transportation plan. It could work.
Roanoke Times Editorial
The words finally came to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds in an op-ed written for The Washington Post and published on Wednesday. Until now, Deeds has been rightly criticized for failing to articulate a plan to provide much-needed funds for transportation.
His opponent, Republican Bob McDonnell, has mocked Deeds by holding up blank paper to illustrate his inability to clearly put into words that which voters most need to hear.
Deeds has talked about a bipartisan consensus, has signaled he'd agree to "new revenues" but has failed to define that, saying only that he wouldn't raise taxes. Confused? You're not alone.
Deeds now brings clarification. He wrote that days after winning election, he'd assemble a team of Republicans, Democrats, independents, private-sector leaders and transportation experts to begin work in December on finding a funding solution.
"Virginia needs a bipartisan plan that must have enough funding to deal with our multibillion-dollar backlog and make the needed investments for our future. All funding options are on the table except taking money from education and other obligations met by Virginia's general fund," Deeds wrote.
He pledged to "not let lawmakers go home until we pass a comprehensive transportation plan -- our economic future depends on this." It could be a very long session.
However, if the right, key people served on the committee, a solution palatable to even the most obstinate House Republicans might emerge.
Deeds is also correct in refusing to consider any raid on the general fund or a raising of general fund taxes to pay for transportation. This stands out as a huge difference between him and McDonnell.
"Transportation out of the general fund is a new program to be sure," said retired Republican Sen. John Chichester, a longtime steward of Virginia's budgeting process. "The general fund cannot tolerate another obligation. It has all it can say grace over and barely that."
McDonnell might still find cause to criticize Deeds for failing to offer bullet points for funding transportation, like he has. But Deeds' everything-is-on-the-table approach offers the flexibility to come up with innovative and workable strategies.
Which is far more than can be said of McDonnell's laundry list of recycled, destructive and failed ideas.