The chances for a long-term transportation funding solution
in Virginia took a positive turn this week.
House lawmakers voted 61-37 Tuesday, Feb. 6, to approve a
bill that would tap into the state's general fund for $250 million to go for
roads, rail and transit projects. It also relies on:
fines for the state's worst drivers;
tax and fee increases;
of surplus money; and
regional taxing authorities.
That same day, which was the final day for the House and
Senate to act on their own legislation, senators chose to return a
transportation funding bill to committee. It called for a 5 percent sales tax
on fuel purchases and less money from the general fund.
The House plan - HB3202 - was the result of several weeks of
negotiations between a handful of Republicans in the GOP-led House and Senate.
After the day's events, Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine congratulated House lawmakers
for working out a deal.
"This vote was an important step, and much hard work
remains," Kaine said in a written statement. "There is ample time to craft a
plan that moves Virginia forward before this session is scheduled to adjourn
Meanwhile, many Democrats in the statehouse were not in the
congratulatory mood. Their complaints centered on the plan's reliance on
general fund revenue. They say it will hurt other programs that include
education and health care, The Roanoke
Of particular interest to truckers, the GOP-plan includes a
provision to increase the state's 16-cent-per-gallon tax on diesel to 17.5
cents. It also would boost penalties for overweight trucks and heavy truck
The 40-page Republican plan includes about $1.4 billion
annually in state and regional funds. It also authorizes bonds totaling $2
billion and dedicating nearly $230 million of the state's surplus funds.
In addition, regional authorities for Hampton Roads and
Northern Virginia would be authorized to place tolls on new or upgraded roads.
HB3202 now heads to the Senate for further consideration.
Another effort moving through the statehouse would tap into
an unusual source for road dollars - pari-mutuel betting on horse races.
The Senate voted 23-14 Tuesday to approve a bill that would
allow "instant racing," in which bettors wager on races that have already been
run. The majority of the profits, 51.5 percent, would be earmarked for the
transportation trust fund.
A study commissioned by Colonial Downs, which operates the
state's only horse racing track and its nine satellite facilities, estimated
that the measure would raise about $300 million for transportation, The Associated Press reported.
The bill - SB1410 - has been forwarded to the House.