Lawmakers in Virginia returned to the capitol Wednesday, Sept. 27, for
a four-day special session to consider about 100 bills to pay for road and
Disputes about highway and transit stalled passage of a budget to fund
state agencies and provide state assistance to cities and counties through the
summer of 2008. But House and Senate lawmakers decided to pass a budget in June
without tackling transportation.
Problems stem from Republican leaders in the House and Senate who
haven’t been able to reach agreement on funding. Senate leaders say new
revenues are needed to address congestion and maintenance costs while House
leaders say tax and fee increases are unpopular and unnecessary.
Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine has called for legislators to work toward an
agreement, saying the state needs about $1 billion a year in additional revenue
for roads, bridges and transit.
As lawmakers work to hammer out deals, a key House panel Tuesday, Sept.
26, once again ruled out tax increases to shore up the state’s transportation
The House Finance Committee voted 19-3 to reject a Senate-sponsored
plan to increase the state’s per-gallon tax on motor fuels by about 8 cents to
25 cents per gallon. The bill – SB5013 – also called for increasing motor vehicle
registration fees by $10 for all vehicles and doubling the gross weight
registration fee for vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds.
The panel also rejected an effort that was billed as a compromise
between the House and Senate. Sponsored by Delegate David Albo, R-Springfield,
the bill – HB5056 – would have allowed localities in Northern Virginia and
Hampton Roads to tap tolls and higher fees and taxes for transportation
A bill that the Senate approved in the spring that used a similar
approach to fund Northern Virginia projects was also unanimously defeated in
the finance panel. The bill – SB5016 – was sponsored by Sen. Jeannemarie
Devolites Davis, R-Vienna.
A toll-only regional option, however, is still alive.
Sponsored by House Transportation Committee Chairman Leo Wardrup,
R-Virginia Beach, the bill would create a regional transportation authority
with the power to levy tolls to pay for roadwork and upgrades on all major
bridges and tunnels in Hampton Roads.
The bill – HB5091 – would allow for tolls on existing roads, bridges
and tunnels. Rates could vary between water-crossings and fluctuate by time of
Electronic tolls would be required to be used to minimize congestion at
Wardrup’s bill passed the House Transportation Committee and is
awaiting consideration on the House floor.