Opening the doors

Gov. Mark Warner pulled a George W. Bush move last week when he announced the reopening of DMV the offices he closed last October when the state budget was slashed to help fill a $2 billion shortfall. This action, using a windfall from a recent court settlement, headed off plans by crusading Republicans at the start of this year’s General Assembly session. Dubya, whose made a living putting his own spin on Democratic issues, would be proud.

With no money in the budget, lawmakers from both parties placed DMV funding at the top of their priority lists. Reopening 12 closed offices looks good on campaign literature. Warner, using a $6.4 million settlement from Merrill Lynch, beat them to the punch. He taketh away and he giveth.

Reopening the recently closed offices may provide short term relief enough to take the heat off of some politicians during the November elections but more money will be needed to keep them open beyond next year. There is also a need for new DMV offices in Northern Virginia where demand for tags, drivers licenses and ID cards is enormous. There can be no expansion without more money. Without expansion in our region, the lines will continue to extend out the door and into the cold.

Meanwhile, Warner’s announcement will provide some relief when some of the closed offices reopen later this month. And though there are probably higher priorities deserving of state funding, such as mental health and social services, the DMV is the primary measuring stick used by the voting public in evaluating state government efficiency.

State lawmakers know this… and Warner knew it too.

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