Howell: McDonnell Changed Tune On Metro Funds
After $300 million in metro funding stripped from state budget, Senator says Governor's office has sent mixed messages this session
Gov. Bob McDonnell's decision to withdraw support for $300 million in extra funding for the Silver Line last week is a departure from his previous offers to direct more of Virginia's spending plan to the project, says State Sen. Janet Howell, the latest in what she calls a string of "mixed signals" this session about the governor's position on the issue.
The lack of support prompted state budget negotiators to strip the metro funding from the proposed plan, Howell (D-Fairfax) told the Washington Post, despite recent offers from McDonnell to contribute as much as $200 million toward the rail that will eventually run from Falls Church to Dulles Airport.
Howell called the back and forth "galling," saying there had always been some offer on the table until it disappeared on Friday.
Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton told the Post the office only discussed the funding in "hypothetical terms," saying they had never materialized into official offers.
"In response to requests from the Senate, the Administration provided various scenarios to address issues that were raised by the Senate Democrats,” Connaughton told the Post. “The Administration has made consistently clear the without additional resources, the Commonwealth could not allocate additional funds to Dulles Rail or any other project."
The disappearance of the funds didn't sit well with other senators, including Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudoun), who told the Post the move showed Republicans were "content to toll people to death,” and said it also put Loudoun County's buy-in to the project at risk.
As the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to confirm their own support of the project's second phase on Tuesday, Sup. Jeff McKay (Lee) said the board would continue to ask for state support in funding the project; the county is responsible for anywhere from $433 to $498 million of the $2.7 billion price tag of the Phase II extension past Wiehle Avenue in Reston to Dulles Airport.
“I think it is the state’s obligation to support a project of this magnitude,” McKay said before that vote. “[To] support the biggest job creator in the Northern Virginia area right now.”
For the full Washington Post story, click here.
Patch's William Callahan contributed reporting to this story.