Road Rage: The Bill Everyone Loves to HatePoliticsVirginia

By John Fredericks

You know a political compromise is good policy when everybody hates it, and it passes anyway.

The Virginia General Assembly’s “Great Transportation Compromise” bill of 2013 is universally loathed by all sides of the ideological political spectrum: state and national conservatives are hyperventilating over it, liberals scorn it, libertarians despise it – even the green parties have ridiculed it.

That means I was right in supporting it.

The best compromise is the one that all sides loathe. This is the quintessential peerless solution that no one likes.

Democrats Rally to Ax The Hybrid Tax

Two Va. General Assembly Democrats came on the John Fredericks Show on February 25 to announce their opposition to one piece of the transportation package that is now on Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R-VA) desk.

Del. Scott Surovell (D-44) and State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) are furious over the $100 alternative fuel surtax, which is essentially an annually assessed up-charge for hybrid vehicles for up to 10 years. The legislators argue that the state government should be rewarding and encouraging fuel-saving transportation alternatives like hybrid vehicles, not punishing their buyers with a once a year happy birthday $100 fee.

“The worst component of the legislation is the proposed surcharge on hybrid vehicles,” Sen. Ebbin said. “We should be encouraging energy independence that we have been working towards, and finding ways to diminish our dependence on foreign oil. Why would we add an extra fee to those who are trying to do the right thing?”

Both Ebbin and Survell voted against the transportation compromise. The Democratic duo launched a new website: www.nohybridtax.com

However, taking the provision out will curtail critically needed transportation funding by an estimated $50-$60 million over five years. When asked how it would be compensated for in order to get back to the $3.5 billion cash target over five-years, they preferred a slight increase in the wholesale gas tax to make up the difference.

On the flip side, those who advocate the surcharge make the case that those driving hybrid vehicles need to pay their fare share for road usage.

Ironically, Democrats normally use the “pay your fair share” argument for equalizing things in the free market.

On the surface, Ebbin and Survell have a definite point. Why penalize those who are already paying higher prices for alternative fuel vehicles, which help the U.S. move towards energy independence?

Technically, the Governor can offer an amendment to make up for the decreased revenue and if the General Assembly refuses to pass it, he can still sign the bill in its entirety. So he has some flexibility.

But it’s a bad idea.

Here’s why: if you start amending this bill beyond minor surface changes, you risk jettisoning the whole deal. If McDonnell takes out the hybrid provision, he’ll open the floodgates for every other part of this package that various interest groups view as anathema.

They say their objective is to garner thousands of signatures to present to the governor, and persuade him to redline the surcharge out under executive amendment privilege.

Snyder Fires Up Fierce Conservative Opposition for Gov.’s Compromise

Virginia businessman and entrepreneur Pete Snyder, a leading candidate for the Republican nomination for Lt. Governor, was mostly known inside political circles as a loyal conservative Republican foot soldier and leader who fought the good fight along party lines. He led Gov. Bob McDonnell’s 2012 statewide effort to carry Virginia for the GOP ticket.

But that was then — and this is now. Snyder has broke ranks with the governor and the entire statewide Republican leadership machine in Richmond by eviscerating the bi-partisan transportation compromise. Leading the conservative broadside both in the Commonwealth and nationally, Snyder lambasted the plan in a blistering Op-Ed column on the national conservative website Red State.com websites’ front page.

Snyder – who in one fell swoop solidified his position as an outsider – proved he is not beholden to the political power players in Richmond.

Roger Ailes, the founder and CEO of FOX News, for one, was not surprised. He said he hired Snyder as an analyst specifically for his independence and because he didn’t just toe the RNC line.

“At a time when conservatives across America are looking for a road forward for our country and for our party, there are many paths to heal what’s ailing our movement. Tossing aside our conservative principles and raising taxes on families isn’t one of them,” Snyder said in his column.

“Rhetorically, there is near unanimous agreement in the grassroots of our movement that Americans are taxed too much already, and that government needs to get its spending in check rather than reaching into the pockets of hardworking people time after time,” the businessman went on.

“But rather than matching their words with deeds, too many Republicans in The Old Dominion are aligning themselves with a flawed, so-called compromise to fund our state’s transportation infrastructure—one which raises taxes and eschews fiscal responsibility in favor of government.” Snyder favored a ten percent reduction in state spending to fund transportation. His plan would have allocated about $5 billion in road funding over five years, he says.

Snyder’s salvo was then doubled down by Red State editor and conservative commentator Erick Erickson with this nuclear bomb headline: “Virginia’s Governor Bob McDonnell Thinks You’re an Idiot.”

“If you are a conservative, remember Bob McDonnell thinks you’re an idiot,” Erickson wrote.

“That’s the only explanation I can think of for what just happened in Virginia this week. That, and that McDonnell is an unprincipled fake conservative whose promises are without value, an exemplar of the kind of big government pro-tax Republican who ruined the party’s stature with fiscal conservatives.”

Stafford County Chairman of Supervisors Susan Stimpson, also a candidate for Lt. governor, piled on McDonnell, asking in an email to supporters if the governor would soon be giving away free cell phones to Virginia residents.

Six of the seven of the GOP candidates for Lt. governor and both Republican candidates for attorney general unequivocally opposed the bill.

Another Lt. governor aspirant, former state senator Jeannemarie Davis, says she could not support the bill as it is currently written. “I’d like to see the governor make a number of appropriate amendments,” Davis said.


John Fredericks is syndicated radio talk show host in Baltimore, Md., Washington, D.C., and Virginia and can be heard M-F 6-9 a.m. on WTNT –AM 730 & 102.9FM in D.C., WLEE AM 990 in Richmond, WHKT AM 1650 in Tidewater and WBRG AM 1050 & 104.5 FM in Lynchburg – Roanoke or streaming online at www.thejohnfredericksshow.com. The opinions expressed in sponsored posts are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Virginia Line Media, LLC or its officers