Well look out folks, Tony the Chamber guy is back from his big win selling that shiny train to the trusting people of Loudoun. This time he is after, you guessed it, a tax increase to cover the tab for all these ambitious new projects. But before launching into a response to Mr. Howard, I want to say how glad I am that the President & CEO of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce is concerned about soaring tolls, as he should be.
Why? Because tolls are just like taxes. They pick pockets and make people and businesses want to go elsewhere. Tony knows that. In fact I’ll bet he knows that SAIC, one of the largest employers in Tysons, is so excited to have a new Metro stop coming to their front door in Tysons that they are going to build the three office buildings they talked about. Not so. Instead, they are selling out before the shiny train and all the new taxes it will bring even get there. But that’s Tysons, not Loudoun, right?
Next, Tony talks about a leadership problem and again I agree, but for different reasons. The challenge of diminishing transportation funding has been no secret. It is a hard reality of a down economy and decades of big spending. The real leadership crisis is demonstrated by elected officials signing the Metro blank check when the bank is empty. Tax districts are fine, but you can only milk that idea for so much money. The double whammy is that remodeling the station area roads will cost billions on top of the cost of the shiny train. I believe that was brought up over and over before the decision … and ignored.
What Mr. Howard is lobbying for this time is funding for the station-area bailout that he is a paid promoter of. This is a sort of call to spend our way into prosperity, or something, but don’t buy his fast talk. The prosperity coming is to a small circle of Chamber profiteers, the rest of us are left to pick up the tab. Like it or not, that is the new reality that Tony is pedaling.
The Commonwealth is facing a crisis that is threatening our economy and quality of life, but raising taxes is not the way out; just ask Maryland. People are coming to Virginia from there because we have lower taxes and more jobs.
Want to talk about a dysfunctional transportation program? That would be one that commits vast resources to projects without rating the merit. The FTA didn't make that mistake with the Silver line. They looked closely and gave it failing ratings and refused to fund Phase 2.
The problem Tony won’t talk about is that a small group of his friends on the Chamber begged for this mutt of a project and they got their way. So they and the station area developers need to step in and pay to fill the gaps. Virginia has already pitched in and paid to build the Dulles Toll Road. That is a sizable contribution to the Dulles Corridor I'd say.
The General Assembly and taxpayers had better look out. Tony is talking new taxes, and when Tony starts a talkin’, our tax dollars go a walkin’.
Mr. LaRock is a member of NoTollIncrease.org and was part of Loudoun Opt Out.