Friday, May 4, 2012

Taxpayers Should Oppose an Additional $300 Million for Dulles Rail

Majority Caucus Chairman, Delegate Tim Hugo, had an op-ed in the Fairfax Times this morning. In it, he successfully sheds light on why MWAA shouldn't receive an additional $300 Million for Dulles Rail Phase 2.

The complete article below.

Taxpayers should oppose an additional $300 million for Dulles Rail

During the past couple of months, much press coverage — both pro and con — has been devoted to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and the Dulles Rail Phase 2 project.

Coverage exploded when MWAA’s allies, at the 11th hour, requested an additional $300 million from the Commonwealth of Virginia. This request almost scuttled Virginia’s budget for schools, police, fire and other essential services during the next two years.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to make informed decisions regarding “Rail to Dulles” because of the misinformation spread by the MWAA Board and its supporters. Thus, it needs to be explicitly stated why this MWAA “megaproject” has become the source of such controversy and the reasons for not providing an additional $300 million from Virginia taxpayers.

In 2006, Gov. Tim Kaine (D) transferred Virginia’s Dulles Toll Road, valued at $3.52 billion, to MWAA with Virginia receiving nothing in return. With the toll road on the verge of being completely paid for, MWAA became the beneficiary of its revenues, which in 2011 alone generated about $95 million. The toll road continues to be a cash cow for MWAA’s coffers with MWAA estimating, during the next 15 years, $4.4 billion in toll road revenues.

Virginia’s House of Delegates passed legislation in 2006 attempting to prohibit the transfer of any Virginia infrastructure to any public or private entity without prior legislative authorization by the General Assembly. The legislation unfortunately died in the Virginia Senate, resulting in the Commonwealth not being able to cap potentially exorbitant tolls on a road paid for and maintained by Virginia taxpayers.

So who is this MWAA Board that will decide how much Virginians must pay to drive on a road they’ve already paid for? It is made up of 13 unelected members — only five of whom are appointed by the governor of Virginia. The remaining eight members — appointed by Maryland, the District of Columbia and president — have little or no relationship to our Virginia airports. In fact, one MWAA Board member voted while under house arrest on another continent! Clearly, the majority of this MWAA Board does not have Virginia as its primary interest.

Virginia is a “Right to Work” state. Yet MWAA, because of Board members with close ties to national unions, is promoting union preferences that will preclude the hiring of almost all Virginia companies. These jobs will go to companies in Maryland, Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

MWAA’s latest attempt, which would give a 10 percent scoring incentive to union companies in awarding a contract, completely ignores Virginia’s cherished “Right to Work” laws. This preference is tantamount to the Redskins starting every series on the 45-yard line. There should be a level playing field between union and non-union companies. Unfortunately, MWAA does not believe this to be so.

MWAA is a poorly run Board whose decisions often are hidden from the public behind closed doors. In fact, for months MWAA publicly contended Phase 1 was on-time and on-budget. Yet recently, MWAA was forced to announce Phase 1 actually was $150 million over budget. MWAA’s actions have necessitated a federal Inspector General audit, whose interim findings are set to be released on May 15. At the very least, we need to wait and see the audit findings before we even consider providing an additional $300 million from the taxpayers.

VDOT has analyzed MWAA’s financing of the project and has proposed a debt restructuring solution that would keep Dulles tolls at a manageable level by utilizing a projected $5.4 billion in surplus toll revenues to help reduce rates. Thus, the $300 million Senate Democrats insisted upon — when they held Virginia hostage by refusing to pass a budget — is unnecessary. Once again, rather than ensuring taxpayers’ monies are wisely spent, MWAA’s answer to all things is to spend more. Because they are projected to have a $5 billion surplus, does MWAA really need more taxpayer dollars?

Rail to Dulles can be built. But, if so, it must be done in a fiscally responsible way that benefits Virginia companies and Virginia taxpayers.

It’s about time to shed some light on MWAA’s actions and make it accountable to Virginia.

Del. Tim Hugo (R-Dist. 40) represents portions of Centreville, Clifton, Fairfax Station in Fairfax County and Catharpin, Gainesville, Haymarket, Gainesville in Prince William County.