Mixed reaction to Gov. McDonnell’s transportation package

Delegate Kirk Cox of Colonial Heights says he supports Gov. Bob McDonnell’s plan to overhaul the system for funding transportation in Virginia and to pump more money into projects especially in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

Bob McDonnell transportation

By Sam Isaacs | Capital News Service

Delegate Kirk Cox of Colonial Heights says he supports Gov. Bob McDonnell’s plan to overhaul the system for funding transportation in Virginia and to pump more money into projects especially in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

Cox, the majority leader in the House of Delegates, said the proposals unveiled this week by McDonnell, a fellow Republican, would benefit the entire state by investing an additional $3.1 billion in transportation projects and maintenance.

Cox expressed frustration that Democrats have come out against the plan, which would eliminate the state’s 17.5-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax but raise the sales tax from 5 percent to 5.8 percent.

“I’m a little disappointed in the Democrats for already saying that this bill is dead on arrival,” Cox said.

The Democratic critics include Sen. Chap Petersen of Fairfax. He called McDonnell’s plan a “startling turn of events.”

“Eliminating the gas tax is eliminating a tax paid for by the oil and gas companies and placing it on the consumers,” Petersen said.

Petersen has introduced legislation (Senate Bill 733) that, instead of eliminating the gasoline tax, would adjust it based on the fuel efficiency index.

Another Democratic senator, Henry Marsh of Richmond, said raising the sales tax to fund road projects would be unfair to many consumers.

“A lot of underprivileged people in urban areas may not drive and instead choose to take the bus. They will have to pay the same tax as those who frequently use the interstates,” he said.

Marsh also expressed his concerns that the bill may take funding away from education, health care and law enforcement.

McDonnell’s plan, called “Virginia’s Road to the Future,” has won support from business groups. On Thursday, the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce endorsed the package.

“Current levels of congestion outside and within our region have placed business growth, tourism, port growth and our military facilities at risk,” said chamber President Jack Hornbeck.

“The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce applauds Gov. McDonnell’s leadership in offering legislation that from our perspective will address what has been the Chamber’s top legislative priority for many years.”

One element of McDonnell’s plan calls for an increase in the fees that alternative fuel vehicle owners must pay. Petersen does not see that idea as a practical source of revenue.

“With alternative vehicles, you still buy gas. They currently make up such a small percentage of the market, it is just like taxing horses – it is irrelevant,” he said.

McDonnell also would raise the vehicle registration fee by $15.

The governor acknowledged that it will be a challenge to overhaul the system for funding and improving Virginia’s transportation network.

“If this was easy, it would have been done 25 years ago,” he said.

photo courtesy of VCU CNS

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5 comments on Mixed reaction to Gov. McDonnell’s transportation package

  1. skiddlybop on said:

    I’m glad to see RVAnews tackling legislative issues and this represents a good effort. Unfortunately it falls short of your potential for this type of reporting. It would be nice to see more input from experts on transportation policy and transportation consultants. Also it would be useful to put this proposal into perspective as far as how does this compare to what other states are doing with their gasoline tax? Transportation policy and proposals can be overwhelming and intimidating and I encourage you to continue following this issue!

  2. Reighning Blows on said:

    Increase the sales tax, more conservative no new taxes in effect. I believe this will make Gov. Mcdonalds the new record holder, replacing the current tax increase record holder our man of the People our northern Sen. Mark Warner. Maybe when the sales tax reaches 100% the political class will finally realize they are idiots

  3. downtownwatch on said:

    RVAnews uses VCU’s Capital News Service for these stories. They are written by journalism students and syndicated across the state. You can read all of their stories on the General Assembly here: http://capitalnews.vcu.edu/

  4. Carolyn M Gill on said:

    I gas than the gas guzzlers! He has suggested raising the registration fee on these cars because they are not paying their fair share of gas to help care for the highways! What in the hell does the government think they are doing. The citizens are screwed no matter which way they go! This is stupidity and should discourage everyone to not buy these “ecologicaly friendly” cars that are being forced on the auto industries with legislation!!I have complied and gotten a hybrid vehicle to save gas, the environment and due to the economy as the government suggested we should do! Now, Governor Mc Donnell is suggesting that I be penalized because I am using less. I have no problem with the 1.2 cnt. increase in the sales tax as everyone will pay. the emphasis should be on the vehicles that arethe gas guzzlers, with poor emmission control!

  5. Scott Burger on said:

    No mention of Sen. Watkins’ transportation plan?

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