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Va. business ranking has taken a detour
General Assembly 2013--transportation. Richard Saslaw.

Date published: 1/6/2013

SPRINGFIELD

--Previously, Virginia was nationally recognized as the "best place to do business." Currently, it has slipped to third place in the rankings. This should be a wake-up call for action from the legislature. It appears Gov. McDonnell has joined the ranks of believers in the seriousness of the situation. On Dec. 17 he stated, "We have a math problem and ultimately a jobs problem." I would submit that if we thought there was a problem with transportation before, what do you think will happen when our economic engine is handicapped by gridlock?

There are some who would have you believe that this predicament is a new development. But for the better part of the last decade, from then-Gov. Mark Warner, to transportation experts and respected business leaders in every corner of this commonwealth, the alarm warning has been sounding. Virginia is fast approaching its "transportation cliff."

During this same period, we saw creative math, massive bond leverage, and a screeching halt to the "pay as you go system" that once was the foundation for Virginia's fiscal policy. We even entered into an era of public and private partnerships (P3) to build and sustain our infrastructure. Despite all efforts, we are no closer to addressing the increasing dilemma of moving people to their work and homes, or moving goods in a cost-efficient manner that the consumer can appreciate.

More than a quarter-century ago, then-Gov. Gerald Baliles had the political courage and foresight to increase the gas tax. Although the cost of gas at the pump has increased significantly during this time, the gas tax rate of 17.5 cents per gallon has remained flat. Oil companies have seen large profit margins while the commonwealth's buying power has decreased by 54 percent since 1986. Indexing the existing gas tax should be a crucial consideration amid serious debate on the subject. However, this will barely make a dent.


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Sen. Dick Saslaw, D-35th (parts of Fairfax County and of the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church), is Democratic leader of the state Senate. He is a member of and previously chaired the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Transportation.