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The Right Way to do Infrastructure—–at the State level

infrastructure photo  It is going to come as a major shock to your senses to hear what I am going to say after listening to all the voices on the Presidents Infrastructure idea……………he should alter  it and let the individual states do it in the form of a reasonable block grant, and the states should send any additional costs to those that use the roads, bridges and tunnels, the people who drive on them. Conservatives have a legitimate concern about adding to the debt, and to fix the infrastructure problems we have is going to cost a lot of money, lots of money. We know from recent examples how much was wasted on both T.A.R.P as well as the Stimulus Package.

In some states the problem relative to roads/tunnels is much worse than in others.  Any attempt to do this at the Federal level always results in political patronage jobs and contracts being doled out to members of Congress pals. Money gets spent on dozens of things that have nothing to do with fixing infrastructure but end up as payola to labor unions, contractors that are friends of friends and Federal costs structures that are inflated ( Davis Act ) relative to what costs could be at the state level . States are more likely to be using non-union contractors in an open bidding process monitored by state watchdog groups.

In 2009 both Stimulus and TARP squandered billions on things that had nothing at all to do with the intended purposes. It was a grab bag of money that made the old practice of earmarks look like a bargain.  The appropriate way to marginalize costs as to the extent possible and keep it from turning into a large grab bag of money is to let the states decide where the money should be spent. Voters can reach out and impact state legislators a bit easier than allowing Congress to  decide where the money should be spent.

The decision on how the block grant money is divided can be made  based on estimates already existing that have determined which states are in the worst shape. Some states have done a very good job at the state level of maintaining infrastructure in their own states, hence they will receive smaller shares since the need is greater elsewhere. I already hear the voices about how this is unfair to states that have behaved more responsibly than others, but no remedy is without flaw.

Let’s say for example a bridge/tunnel that crosses state lines need repaired. Each of those states could commit a portion of their block grants ( their share of the costs)  via votes by their respective legislative transportation bodies and the job gets done without Federal contracts that often end up going to pals of pals.  I am not naïve and recognize this same crony capitalism goes on at the state level, it’s just easier to identify it with a state sponsored open bidding process.

Federal Block Grants can’t  cover all of the costs, nor should they.  States will have some cost sharing responsibility and this is where as they say “ rubber meets the road”.  Most State transportation funding  formulas far too often provide adequate dedicated revenues for the maintenance of our infrastructure that get re-directed  for political purposes. Legislators play games and spend the money on other things.  I won’t spend time or ink on citing the well known examples of this. Suffice to say it then creates a funding shortfall that results in infrastructure problems getting kicked down the road.

 

Congress can remedy this with very specific language that prohibits a single dollar being spent on anything else besides well defined infrastructure projects, and severe penalties for any states that are caught violating said prohibitions.  Federal Transportation Money could be withheld in future years as a means of controlling the abuse.

As to the states needing to pick up the share that federal money won’t cover, it comes from existing transportation funds the states already have, and if it still is short of what’s needed then it comes down to hiking gasoline taxes and or toll fees.

Conservatives don’t object to paying taxes, what we object to is dedicated taxes being squandered on some legislators pet projects that have nothing to do with infrastructure, only to hear a year later how “ transportation needs  can’t be met “  because the dedicated funds were spent elsewhere. State legislators , particularly Governors who have some integrity and backbone could stop this immediately if they wanted to.  When they refuse to then the blame lies with us for tolerating it.

Bob Shannon  King William

11 Responses to “The Right Way to do Infrastructure—–at the State level”

  1. T. Baxter says:

    Kudos to you Mr. Shannon for an excellent article.

    Hanover County’s proposed new Atlee Library to be located in Mechanicsville in Supervisor Angela Kelly Wiecek’s Chickahominy District is a perfect example of WASTED funds on political pet projects.

    Each of Hanover County’s 25 public schools has an age appropriate library for the students’ use. Hanover County has 6 public libraries all of which are underutilized. A second Mechanicsville Library? THAT WOULD MAKE 32 libraries, PEOPLE. in a County with a population of 107,000 citizens? Did you know that if you have a Pamunkey Library card ( the Hanover-Caroline library system) that you can also apply for a Henrico County library system card and use the terrific libraries in nearby Henrico County? In a world where libraries are DINOSAURS due to e-readers and Kindles, nook books and I-Pads why is Hanover building a second library in Mechanicsville? What a waste of taxpayer money! There is no common sense in Government.

    Let’s discuss the proposed SHRINE to Hanover County Board Chairwoman Ms. Kelly Wiecek.

    In December of 2015 the Friends of Atlee Library began their campaign in earnest for the new library by writing letters to Local falsely stating that the library was crowded and in need of more space falsely claiming that the carousels were always full. A group of citizen watchdogs began to photograph the library on frequent visits to document that lie.

    In fact on one Saturday morning in January 2016 – the carousels were empty and there were more staff than library patrons.

    The municipal bond debt in Hanover County is mounting now exceeding $160 million. Hanover County will need new schools due to the irresponsible residential growth and the aging existing schools are in need of millions of dollars of repairs and Angela Kelly who has an “on line degree” from Averitt University with work experience at a Fredericksburg air compressor company WANTS TO BUILD THE 32nd Library in Hanover County while the remaining 31 LIBRARIES are grossly underutilized. I challenge the citizens of Hanover County to go to any of the 6 existing libraries and see for yourselves first hand the “empty” libraries sitting idle and ask yourself WOULDN’T THAT MONEY BE BETTER SPENT IN THE SCHOOLS?

    That proffered land could have been better used for a park.

    That is your Hanover County Board of Supervisors chairwoman…….ladies and gentlemen.
    Handing out yet another BID to yet another Hanover Contractor-Donor for yet another unnecessary government building.

    • Mr. R. says:

      Following the recent construction of the unnecessary $44 million dollar courthouse in Hanover County the good citizens are fully engaged in what has become the practice of keeping the Hanover contractors in business with taxpayer funded contracts.

      $1000 bet the new library will be built by a Hanover County contractor. Like every school in modern time was built by the same man. Funny thing. If you go and look it up.

  2. Robert Shannon says:

    The other consideration is that these Library employees are eligible for the bevy of taxpayer subsidized benefits, along with pension benefits.

    The pension problem, something I write a lot about is getting worse by the day for a host of reasons. To add public sector employees without recognition that this only makes this growing pension problem worse, is beyond irresponsible.

    It is only a matter of time until the next recession ( these are cyclical and occur no matter who’s in office )

    When the next one ( recession ) hits and Hanover struggles in servicing this 160 million in debt, homeowners in Hanover are in for a very unpleasant surprise in the form of massive real estate tax increases.
    Unfortunately until people feel the level of pain required they sit silent as this debt bomb ticks away.
    Bob Shannon

  3. Beth L. says:

    Urge caution when criticizing the Hanover County Board of Supervisors Henry District Supervisor Sean Davis might file a lawsuit:

    http://www.richmond.com/news/local/hanover/article_3ebcee04-d4ef-5ea3-8b5d-5b83148875b0.html
    http://www.richmond.com/news/local/article_7a3b789f-0dc2-544a-b28a-c98432b70dc1.html

  4. mr green jeans
    Twitter:
    says:

    The ultimate act of cynicism is to “pay your mortgage with a credit card”.
    Government Debt is the most ineffective way to invest. Look at the Delete Richmond has rebuilt, remodeled, and revitalized Main Street Station at least 4 times. Just another payoff project for bottom feeding pols! Government sponsored construction is like free drugs for the addict. Unfortunately the government has to many “socialist” who regulate and control every aspect of any effort to start a business. It is not worth the effort!
    The “mothers milk” of solid sustainable successful business ventures are commitment, vision, passion, and faith. Not one dime of borrowed government money. I know because I did it!
    Freedom and Liberty are not promoted with DEBT!

    The bright spot for Bobs idea is we can get our hands on the local crooks who will administer another government sponsored “boondoggle”. On last point, this is better than any federal run program run from DC.

  5. Cindy says:

    Need a Citizens TAXPAYER REVOLT to stop the Atlee Library NOW.

    32 Libraries???????????? in Hanover County??????

    Have the Dinosaurs on the Board of Supervisors ever heard of Ebooks? that’s the future not a brick and mortar building. Like that outlet mall that is never coming to Hanover County. Amazon Prime? anyone?

    • mr green jeans says:

      No and the School Board is equally challenged. I was in the Hanover HS Library for a meeting several years ago. Chairman of SB was going on and on about the “state of the art” library. I remarked, “Maginot Line”. He asked, what are you talking about. My response , General Patton said, “this is monument to mans stupidity”. HCPS are giving 21st century education according to all the speeches.

  6. Robert Shannon says:

    Ladies & Gents,

    For about the 50th time-you have no opposition in Hanover County . The 2 TEA Party groups are both complicit in allowing this.

    They care more about guarding their seats at the table than they do effecting change.

    Until then pacify yourselves with the ” we are gonna hold their feet to the fire” BS that passes as organized resistance.
    Bob Shannon

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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