Northam: Budget woes complicated by transportation funding

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Feb 01, 2012 - 04:18 PM

Photo: Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) sees the unresolved question of transportation funding complicating this year’s state budget process. Photo by Sherry Hamilton.

Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) sees the unresolved question of transportation funding complicating this year’s state budget process. Photo by Sherry Hamilton.

Senator Ralph Northam was relaxed and congenial Monday in his office in the Virginia General Assembly office building. He discussed some of the issues he felt Mathews County residents would be most interested in this year, saying that he likes his Mathews constituents because they’re genuine.

Northam returned to Richmond last month to begin his second four-year term representing Virginia’s Eastern Shore and parts of the cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach, as well as Mathews County.

Balancing the budget will be the biggest chore for the General Assembly this year, Northam predicted, with funding the state’s transportation needs once again making that job harder.

Each year, said Northam, the General Assembly puts off the task of finding a sustainable source for transportation funds, so the money to build and maintain roads comes out of the general fund. That affects the ability to fund such areas as education, law enforcement, and health care—areas Northam said he wants to protect. The last time the legislature addressed transportation funding was in 1986, he said, when the gas tax was increased under Gov. Gerald Baliles.