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EDITORIAL: Time-tax relief

Armed robber: Your money or your life!

Jack Benny (a long pause) : I’m thinking, I’m thinking.

ABOUT transportation, lawmakers during this session of the General Assembly were thinking. And in common with the famously cheap comedian, their dilemma was money vs. life. Vote for higher taxes and require more of the former? Or stick with a status quo that imposes on motorists the tax of time, the essential measurement of mortal life?

Thankfully, most in the legislature came to the right conclusion, and Virginia’s groaning transportation network, slowly starved for 27 years by a static, inflation-oblivious gasoline tax and headed toward financial breakdown in 2017, is on the path to revivification, pending Gov. McDonnell’s eager signature. Richmond worked.

Not only will its action allow Virginia motorists to spend more time with their families and in higher pursuits than contemplating others’ rear bumpers. Quicker travel on better roads will cut vehicular fuel and maintenance costs. It will spur businesses to expand, enlarging payrolls and increasing the competition for labor (think: raises and better benefits). Alone, the faster road construction and maintenance tempo fueled by the $880 million-pay-year increase in mobility funding will provide work for engineers, equipment operators, and laborers. So neither life nor money is neglected.

Passing the bill was a long battle, which produced heroes. Mr. McDonnell, who made transportation a final-year priority of his term, heads the pantheon. Right behind him is House Speaker Bill Howell, R–Stafford, who carried the governor’s legislation, then deep-sixed a cheesy state Senate redistricting scheme that had alienated Senate Democrats. Del. Chris Jones, R–Suffolk, a druggist, helped mix just the right compound from House and Senate versions of the bill in conference. Also, of local note, Del. Bobby Orrock, R–Caroline, performed yeoman service with his “yea” vote for the measure.

Not everyone’s armor shone. Del. Mark Cole, R–Spotsylvania, opposed the bill. Ditto, state Sens. Richard Stuart, R–Montross, and Bryce Reeves, R–Spotsylvania. The gentlemen’s position surely pleased Grover Norquist more than their commute-worn constituents. Nobody counsels extravagance, but the trio’s idea on taxes and core services seems much like that of the parent who not only sensibly refuses to send his boy to school with designer sneakers, fashionable hoodie, and the trendiest pair of budget-busting jeans—but is ready to shoo him out the door with no clothes at all.

Happily, however, the “ayes” had it. Thus, one project already has begun under this bill—maintenance of Virginians’ faith in state government.

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