Virginia bill would hand out heavy fines to bad drivers

| Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A bill in Virginia that would levy hefty fines on the worst-of-the-worst drivers has passed the state’s House. The effort is among several being debated before legislators to fund backlogged transportation projects and ease gridlock

Sponsored by Delegate Thomas D. Rust, R-Fairfax, the bill – HB527 – has been sent to the Senate Finance Committee for further debate.

The revenue generated – estimated at $180 million a year – would be used to help support a House transportation initiative approaching $2 billion over four years, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

Under the “abuser fee” approach, Virginia drivers who compile numerous misdemeanor convictions for moving violations would be hit with fees ranging from $100 to $750.

Motorists convicted of a serious traffic offense would pay extra fees in addition to penalties already assessed.

The plan would set the fees, charged annually for three years, at $250 for driving with a suspended or revoked license, $350 for aggressive or reckless driving and $750 for drunken driving.

Virginia drivers who rack up four or more demerit points on their driving records would be hit with increased fines of $100 a year. The penalty would increase by $75 for each additional point, to as much as $700 annually.

A similar effort passed the House a year ago. However, it was killed in the Senate Finance Committee, where it is likely to face opposition again this year.

Senate Finance Chairman John Chichester, R-Stafford, said the bill would stack hefty fines on many drivers and disputes claims that it would produce a steady flow of revenue for road projects, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

Among the alternatives being considered to fund transportation is a Senate-approved bill that would impose higher fees for registering vehicles – particularly for large trucks, increase taxes on vehicle sales, and increase taxes on gasoline and diesel sales. It also would refund the payments of fuel taxes to those who save pump receipts for their personal vehicles.

The package would bring in $4 billion in the next four years to fund backlogged transportation projects and ease gridlock, The Associated Press reported.

A separate offered by Gov. Tim Kaine would generate $3.7 billion over four years, through a combination of tax and fee increases.

Lawmakers have until the close of the legislative session March 11 to reach agreement on transportation funding.

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