Virginia lawmakers eye transportation

| 1/4/2005

Republicans in the Virginia House proposed a $938 million transportation package Tuesday, Jan. 4, to direct some money from the state’s general operating fund and some from the state tax on insurance premiums to the transportation budget.

The proposal exceeds the $824 million initiative Gov. Mark Warner submitted last month but shares many characteristics of the governor’s plan.

According to The Associated Press, $256 million in the initiative is reserved for retiring deficits on completed road projects. Other provisions in the plan include $75 million that localities can leverage to ease highway congestion problems, $33 million for rail improvements, $40 million for mass transit capital projects and $60 million for public-private transportation partnerships.

The House GOP plan would repay $90 million extracted from the Transportation Trust Fund in recent years of fiscal crisis to balance the state’s general fund budget.

The GOP transportation package joins Warner’s as the second of three competing transportation packages likely to dominate the 2005 legislative session. A Senate package expected later this month is likely to differ from the House plan by avoiding the use of general fund money.

Warner’s plan and the House plan are alike in that neither proposes additional taxes. They vary in that the governor’s plan is a massive one-time cash infusion while more than half of the House plan – $552 million – would be pledged for transportation years into the future.

Over the course of the state’s six-year transportation plan, the House initiative would provide an additional $1.8 billion, The AP reported.

Both plans rely in part on an expected surplus known to exceed $900 million.