July 25 — Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is considered by many to be a moderate with swing state appeal. He also was behind several contentious proposals to increase taxes to fund transportation in Virginia.
During his 2006-2010 tenure as Virginia's governor, Kaine proposed several tax and fee hikes, including one that would raise $1 billion per year for transportation projects, though he had previously opposed earlier efforts to raise the state's gas tax. None of his tax proposals cleared the Republican-dominated House of Delegates. Although, his successor, former Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), eventually succeeded in swaying the state's General Assembly to pass a six-year plan that would raise more than $800 million annually for infrastructure projects.
Sen. Kaine, who became presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's running mate on July 22, supported provisions in a recently enacted five-year highway and transit reauthorization law to give federal regulators more authority over the Washington Metro. He also supported provisions that would provide funding for nationally significant transportation projects, like repairing the structurally deficient Arlington Memorial Bridge connecting Washington and Virginia. The $305 billion highway/transit law known as the FAST Act (Pub. L. No. 114-94) was long overdue given the country's critical transportation needs, he said.
“It is penny-wise and pound-foolish to starve transportation funding, pat ourselves on the back for being frugal, and then complain about traffic,” Kaine said in a statement on his website.
The most encouraging asset Kaine brings to any potential administration is his experience with governance at almost every level, and especially as a mayor, said Stephen Davis, director of communications at Transportation for America. Kaine has seen the outcome of transportation funding and policy decisions at the city, state and national levels and that could prove to be very valuable, Davis told Bloomberg BNA.
“I think a lot of the stalemate we see from Congress on certain transportation issues, like debates over funding roads versus transit, for example are often rooted in a lack of understanding of what cities of all sizes really need to be successful and how they count on the federal government to be a strong partner in their efforts to stay competitive and prosperous,” he said.
Davis also said it was notable that when Kaine was Virginia's governor he helped launch new Amtrak services to Lynchburg and Richmond—making Virginia one of the few states to successfully expand passenger rail service to meet growing demand in metro areas.
Kaine's transportation efforts have been less of a hit with conservative groups. The Heritage Foundation, for example, gave him a score of two percent. The group has opposed efforts to raise the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax and advocates the concept of giving states more control over transportation programs. It also raised objections to passage of the FAST Act, calling its many non-transportation related pay-fors an example of “embarrassing budget gimmicks.”
It's unclear if Kaine would champion tax hikes for transportation as vice president. The final Democratic Party platform calls for the establishment of a national infrastructure bank that would provide loans for transportation and multi-modal infrastructure investments. The plan was included in an earlier draft as well (See previous story, 07/05/16).
The Democratic National Convention kicked off in Philadelphia on July 25 and Kaine is expected to be the final speaker on July 27. Following the convention, Clinton and Kaine will take a bus tour of the Midwest focused on jobs.
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