The new legislative session opened in Virginia this week
with transportation funding dominating the discussions.
Gov. Tim Kaine wants House and Senate lawmakers to consider
his nearly $1 billion-a-year plan to increase taxes and fees to pay for work on
roads, rail and mass transit.
About half of the revenue would come from a 2-percent
increase in the sales tax on new vehicles. Higher registration fees and stiffer
fines for bad drivers also are included in the plan as well as an increase in
registration fees on large trucks.
House Republicans rebuked a similar plan from the Senate GOP
and Democratic governor a year ago. They have vowed to do the same this year, The Virginian-Pilot reported.
Observers say the unwillingness of both sides to budge could
lead to another year of not being able to come up with a long-term plan for
funding new roads.
While occupants in the statehouse and governor's suite
continue to wrangle over transportation funding, a handful of bills offered in
the early days of the session are intended to give roads and transit a shot in
Delegate Harry "Bob" Purkey, R-Virginia Beach, has
introduced a bill - HB1940 - that would require any budget surplus remaining at
the end of every two-year budget cycle be used for new highway construction.
Delegate Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania, offered a measure that
would increase the amount of the state sales tax dedicated to transportation.
Starting July 1, the bill - HB1638 - would boost the amount
devoted to transportation from half a percent to three-fourths of a percent.
The amount sent to transportation would increase to a full percent beginning
July 1, 2008.
Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, R-Woodbridge, has offered a
similar effort - HB1703 - that would increase the amount allotted to
transportation from half a percent to three-fourths of a percent. However, it
doesn't include the provision to later increase the amount to a full percent.
One other bill of interest has been offered by Delegate
David Albo, R-Springfield.
Albo's bill - HB1893 - would require that any federal grants
used for transportation enhancements be allocated to districts throughout the
state on the basis of population.
HB1638, HB1703 and HB1940 are in the House Appropriations
Committee. HB1893 is in the House Transportation Committee.