Transportation fix for Virginia up in the air for 2007

| 11/10/2006

The prospects are not good that the Virginia General Assembly will put in much time to come up with a statewide transportation fix before the 2008 regular session.

Gov. Tim Kaine conceded as much last week during a monthly radio call-in show on "Washington Post Radio." He said he doesn't expect lawmakers to act on such a major issue during the 45-day session that begins Jan. 10 when all 140 members of the House and Senate are largely focused on the coming elections.

"I'm a realist about this," Kaine said. "It's really hard to make something happen in a short session."

The Democratic governor said the more likely scenario is important issues such as transportation will be dealt with once the new Legislature is seated for the 2008 session.

Despite Kaine's prognosis that transportation funding will not be addressed in 2007, House Republican leaders said they plan to resubmit next year many of the same transportation ideas that were offered this year.

House Speaker William Howell, R-Stafford, said he doesn't want to put it off until 2008.

Among the efforts that failed to gain passage for nine months this year was legislation that included using tolls, taxes and other fees to pay for road and bridge work.

Problems stem from Republican leaders in the House and Senate who haven't been able to reach agreement on funding. Senate leaders and the governor say new revenues, including a fuel tax increase, are needed to address congestion and maintenance costs, while House leaders are vehemently opposed to higher taxes and fees.

The final straw came when a Senate panel rejected the bulk of a $2.4 billion House transportation plan that relied heavily on debt and existing revenues that otherwise would be earmarked for schools, health care and other services, The Associated Press reported.

The governor said he will continue to pursue long-term solutions for transportation.

Kaine said he was "staying at the table for all four years" of his term.

"I'm not giving up."