RICHMOND, Va. (WVEC) -- He's a Republican and come January, he'll be able to say he's worn two hats in two different Democratic administrations.
For the past several years Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne has overseen miles of road construction across the state, including the widening of Interstate 64 in Hampton Roads, public-private partnerships like the Downtown and Midtown tunnels and on several occasions, he's found himself in the middle of tussles over tolls.
In 2018, Layne will take over as Secretary of Finance. In his new job, Layne will make sure the state is fiscally responsible in how it spends its money.
Layne says if people want more from government they're going to have to pay more in tolls and taxes.
"What I have seen, whether it's healthcare or transportation, people expect a lot more from government than we have the resources for," Layne said from his Richmond office.
He also added if the Commonwealth is going to step up its game in the 21st-century high-tech economy, it will take both political will and a reset of the way many people across Virginia still think.
"One of my favorite things is limited revenue have consequences," Layne added.
Layne points out Virginia has seen only modest economic growth in recent years. A recent report gives Hampton Roads low marks for job creation. He also points there are too many low-paying jobs in the state that don't generate much in payroll taxes.
Even more concerning to Layne is the fact there are 30,000 high-tech jobs available in the Commonwealth right now paying $80,000 a year.
The problem is too many schools aren't turning out students with the skill sets to meet the demands of the 21st-century workforce and that's holding the state back.
That's an investment Layne says the state needs to make. "In fact, if we don't solve that, we're not going to solve the economic issues we're dealing with."
Layne also points out that electric vehicles don't pay any gas taxes which means fewer dollars for road construction. That's an adjustment he says the state needs to make.
As frustrated as people are with traffic, Layne says the state has just $500 million a year to invest in new infrastructure. The first phase of the 264/64 interchange cost $350 million.
While he believes there should always be a free way to get there, he also says more tolls are inevitable.
"I believe over the decades our politicians, quite frankly, have not been honest with citizens on what transportation costs," Layne says.
Layne also says a lack of regional thinking continues to hurt Hampton Roads' reputation and economic opportunities. It's not Virginia Beach against the world, he says. It's the region competing against the world.
Light rail to Virginia Beach was more than a transportation project. Layne says it was also an opportunity for the region to connect. And he believes the debates over the new outlet mall did not show the region at its best.
"So it's working together so people want to live in that area and that also will bring jobs. Key to that is regionalism, and I don't think we have gotten that all squared away in Hampton Roads,"
Layne believes it's time for the people of the Commonwealth to decide what the state's priorities should be, have the political debates and intelligent discussions about how to get there. He also adds he doesn't see many wasted dollars in the in the state budget.
The man who soon will be Secretary of Finance reminds everyone there are no free rides.