“…you don’t splurge on dessert if you’re not sure you can afford dinner”

That’s how a member of the Roanoke City Council explained her decision to vote against a new downtown amphitheater, as described in a recent article in the Roanoke Times.  Instead of spending millions on a new outdoor entertainment site to be funded by public tax dollars, she now supports using local revenue for schools and stormwater projects.

At the state level, our politicians are engaged in a game of fiscal Twister to find a way to pay for new roads.
“Few dispute the need for more road money,” according to the Washington Post.  That’s why one candidate for governor is already proposing to sell the state’s assets, and redirect existing taxes to pay for more roads (and a little transit; smart politicians always highlight the small percentage going to transit…).

According to the article in the Washington Post, Virginia is spending $1 billion/year for roads and the “need” is for $3 billion/year.    Someone needs to raise taxes by $2 billion/year, or reduce other services (schools, parks, State Police, jails…) by $2 billion/year.  All those promises of wider highways, new interchanges, new tunnels, new trains, etc. come with a price tag.

Of course, there is Plan B.  When you hear the suburbia expansion advocates (especially the Washington Post) claim that Virginians “need” to triple the transportation budget for construction, start asking about tradeoffs.  What $2 billion of taxes should we raise to pay for more transportation pie?  What $2 billion in services should we stop providing so we can have the transportation dessert?

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