For the second time in as many weeks, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has compromised with Republican legislators in ways that have angered progressives who supported him in his election campaign.
On Jan. 28, McAuliffe brokered a deal with GOP legislators that would overturn Attorney General Mark Herring’s (D) decree canceling Virginia’s reciprocity in recognizing permits from 25 states that allow guns to be carried and concealed.
On Feb. 10, he bucked Arlington County, smart-growth advocates and environmentalists by funding the widening of Interstate 66 eastbound for four miles inside the Beltway from the Dulles Connector Road to Ballston.
The deal would keep dynamic tolls on the road for motorists driving eastbound during rush hour and would provide $140 million in state funds for road widening.
A bipartisan group of legislators, including state senators Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax, Loudoun), Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier), Richard Black (R-Loudoun, Prince William), Jeremy McPike (D-Prince William County, Manassas) and Jennifer Wexton (D-Fairfax, Loudoun) and delegates Michael Webert (R-Fauquier) and David Bulova (D-Fairfax), had lobbied for a compromise to decongest traffic on one of the Metro area’s busiest commuter highways.
Tolls will begin in 2017 with widening completed by 2019.
Arlington County and various activists groups had wanted to delay the widening, which has been opposed for years, until data resulting from tolls, HOV records and other transit forms could be studied.
“A lot of progressives are upset,” says Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, who notes that the deal came through after outside-the-Beltway Republicans and some outside-the-Beltway Democrats sought to undo it through legislation banning tolls inside the Beltway and pressing for immediate widening.
Schwartz and Arlington officials have argued that simply widening overburdened roads is a short-lived solution since the extra pavement quickly fills up with more cars from more development that always seems to pop up.
Some Republicans have been pushing to skip tolls on the section of I-66 in question altogether but the McAuliffe deal nixes that idea.
The issues of gun control and highway widening are obviously separate but they do show a turn for McAuliffe. He spent his early years as governor locked in stubborn battles with leading Republican legislators. The key and still unresolved battle has been over expanding Medicaid coverage to 400,000 underserved Virginians.
Suddenly, it seems, McAuliffe is pulling one deal after the other out of his hat. In doing so, he’s been angering groups who had backed him.
He’s already alienated many environmentalists for backing offshore petroleum drilling and endorsing Dominion Resources’ controversial plans to build a $5 billion natural gas pipeline through some of the state’s most verdant countryside.
One wonders who’s next?
Photo courtesy of Steve Helber/Associated Press. Click here to read the original story.