Letter: State Vs County on Transportation

Letter: State Vs County on Transportation

To the Editor:

When I read my colleague Supervisor John Cook’s Sept. 13 Connection column advocating that Fairfax County take over state roads, I wondered how our taxpayers would feel about accepting a $150 million per year unfunded mandate from the state. That would be a slap in the face given everything that the County has done to balance its budget and provide for our residents during difficult budget years.

On the face of it, the proposal for Fairfax County to take over its roads makes sense. Why shouldn’t we take responsibility for our own roads? Don’t we know our needs better than the state?

So here’s where that pesky reality comes in. Those needs cost a lot of money—about $150 million yearly just to maintain our pothole-cratered roads in their current poor condition. To bring those roads up to even adequate condition would cost a whole lot more. Unless the state is planning to hand us a big check—every year—to cover those costs, then Fairfax County taxpayers will be left holding a very expensive bag.

Why should Fairfax County bail out the state? The Commonwealth of Virginia has primary transportation responsibilities and has since the 1930s. In recent years we’ve seen the state shed more and more of this responsibility, essentially saying, “Can’t afford it anymore so it’s your problem.” That’s not reasonable and it’s certainly not responsible governance. I can’t think of a single reason why Fairfax County should be forced to cut critical services to its residents—like schools, public safety, human services, parks and libraries—because the state needs a bail out.

Rather, it’s time for the state to do its job and address our growing transportation challenge. They can do it the same way we on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors do—taking a creative and non-partisan approach to prioritizing and funding our vital residents’ needs. Bailing out the state sends the wrong message—that Fairfax County can be the state’s ATM and that’s just not fair.

Supervisor Jeffrey C. McKay

(D-Lee District)