With time running out on the regular session, lawmakers in
the Virginia House and Senate were able to reach agreement on a long-term
transportation package. The plan that was crafted by key members from both
chambers would allow $2.5 billion in borrowing for roads, rail and transit
The 105-page Republican-authored package passed the House on
a 64-34 vote. The final tally was much closer in the opposite chamber where the
Senate voted 21-18 to advance the final version to the governor's desk where it
is expected to see numerous changes.
Of particular interest to truckers, the bill includes
provisions to boost penalties for overweight trucks and heavy truck
registration fees. Removed from the bill was a provision to increase the
state's 16-cent-per-gallon tax on diesel to 17.5 cents.
The most pivotal aspect of the funding feature is $2.5
billion in bonds to be used through 2016 for various transportation projects.
Removed from the final version of the bill was a direct diversion of $250
million a year from the state's general fund.
Instead, the bill - HB3202 - would dig into the general fund
account to pay off the borrowing.
The use of general funds was a sticking point in
negotiations. The GOP-led House has been adamant about including general fund
revenue to help pay for transportation projects. The majority of Republican
senators and many Democrats, however, say tapping into the fund will hurt other
programs that include education and health care, The Roanoke Times reported.
Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, immediately condemned the idea
of redirecting general funds to transportation. He has promised "significant
changes." Lawmakers will gather at the Capitol for a one-day session April 4 to
accept or reject the governor's alterations. If they don't agree to them, Kaine
can veto the entire bill.
Other less contentious elements of the plan rely on higher
fines for the state's worst drivers, tolls, tax and fee increases, surplus
money and possible regional taxing authorities for Hampton Roads and Northern