Deal struck on Virginia transportation bill

| 3/29/2007

Spurred on by concerns about what might happen during the upcoming fall elections, lawmakers in Virginia appear poised to end years of wrangling over a long-term road-building plan.

Gov. Tim Kaine and Republican leaders in the statehouse have struck a tentative deal on a statewide transportation plan. The Legislature will decide next week whether to accept the governor’s changes to the plan.

Of particular interest to truckers, the bill includes provisions to boost penalties for overweight trucks and heavy truck registration fees. It also would increase the state’s 16-cent-per-gallon tax on diesel to 17.5 cents.

Kaine preserved key elements of the GOP-authored transportation package. The compromise would allow $3 billion in bonds for various transportation projects. Republicans initially had sought $2.5 billion.

Despite apprehensions from Kaine and fellow Democrats to the use of money normally reserved for such services as education and health care, the governor kept a provision in the bill – HB3202 – that would dig into the general fund account to pay off the borrowing.

Kaine said concessions on general fund spending were difficult to make but necessary to reach a deal.

Other 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 Virginia.

The revised transportation plan now must receive a favorable recommendation from legislators in the Assembly and Senate. The Republican leadership signaled that approval of the compromise is likely when lawmakers gather at the Capitol for a one-day session Wednesday, April 4, to act on legislation the governor has amended and vetoed.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor