ALEXANDRIA —The debate over the controversial Silver Line Metro continued this week, with overseeing agency the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority shooting down an agreement that would have provided incentives for using union labor.
The move appeased Gov. Bob McDonnell, and MWAA board members hoped to lure Loudoun County‘s cooperation with their decision, too.
But a less-visible battle wages in the Commonwealth over ballooning liabilities for the state’s public-sector pension plan, the Virginia Retirement System, and state retiree health care benefits. Virginia’s contributions to VRS are expected to come in well below the national average, and unfunded health care liabilities — about $5 billion as of 2010 — continue to rise.
The Virginia‘s contributions to the Virginia Retirement System are expected to come in well below the national average for 2011, according to a new report by the Boston College Center for Retirement Research.
The report estimated that 126 local and state governments will only be able to fund about half of their annual liabilities. VRS ranked 79th among the pension plans studied.
Even best case scenario projections place VRS at 70 percent funded, below the 80 percent threshold the Government Accountability Office and other analysts have deemed a healthily funded pension plan.
More than $109 million in federal stimulus awards to seven Virginia organizations, municipalities and educational institutions went unaccounted for at the end of 2011 — and there’s nothing taxpayers can do about it.
That failure to report their spending under the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has landed them on the “non-complier” list, also dubbed the “Wall of Shame.”
“We’ve called it our Wall of Shame, because people who pay taxes have a right to know what entities took taxpayer money and failed to report what they did with it as required by law,” said Cheryl Arvidson, assistant director of communications for the federal Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, which lists the “non-compliers.”
To make things even stickier, the feds have essentially no legal authority to compel such organizations into compliance.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority dropped a hotly contested labor incentive agreement for the Silver Line Metro project on Wednesday, marking the end of one more battle in the ongoing conflict between MWAA and funding partners Virginia and Loudoun County.
The now-dead agreement would have offered an incentive scale for contractors using union labor for the $6 billion project.
“Hopefully, it will provide the impetus for Loudoun County to vote and opt into the project,” MWAA board chairman Michael Curto said.
It is unclear whether Gov. Bob McDonnell and Loudoun County will help fund Phase 2 of the metro project.
With MWAA’s labor incentive dead, U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf yet again voiced his support of the $6 billion Silver Line Metro project that will bring a commuter rail to the relatively isolated Washington Dulles International Airport.
“It is perhaps the most significant transportation project in the region since the construction of the initial Metrorail system,” said Wolf in a letter released Wednesday. “The benefits of extending the system to Dulles Airport and Loudoun County are too numerous to list. Can anyone imagine what the Metropolitan Washington region would look like without Metro?”
The Republican who represents District 10 has been a leading critic of MWAA. He requested last month a U.S. Department of Transportation audit of the authority.