The largest obstacle to solving our transportation needs is a philosophy, espoused by some, that it is always wrong to raise taxes or fees. Thank goodness that previous state leaders did not hold that view—if they had, we would have no community college system, dirtier rivers, a lackluster school system and even fewer roads. Virginia is a state with a very favorable tax burden and we should do all we can to keep it that way. But, no state or nation can maintain its economic edge with a declining infrastructure. Eventually, we need leadership in this collective body to find a path toward responsible advances in road investments.Our incoming governor is one of those who espouses that philosophy. In a WDBJ-7 interview, House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong brought home in very real terms what that means for Southside residents, saying, "There are huge transportation needs that aren't being met and sooner or later you're going to feel that." Armstrong went on to reference the real harm that will come from a lack of revenue--not just more congestion in NoVa and Hampton Roads, but lost opportunity in rural communities.
For a long time now, we've been promised that Interstate 73 would be built and US 58 would finally be four-laned from Stuart to Hillsville. We've been given more IOUs than we can count, and we're starting to lose track of them. I-73 would run through Henry and Franklin counties on its way from South Carolina to the northern tip of Michigan; a fully four-laned US 58 would skirt the North Carolina border from the Port of Virginia all the way out into the heartland. Those two road projects could give the Southside a fighting chance to get back on its feet and finally start growing again.
Sadly, it looks like Bob McDonnell and Richmond Republicans are about to hand out another stack of IOUs. Kaine and Armstrong are absolutely right--no one likes taxes, and we should do everything we can to keep them as low as possible. But there comes a point when there's nothing left to cut. There comes a point when doing nothing costs a lot more than investing in the future.