Virginia House supports governor’s road plan

| Monday, February 07, 2011

The Virginia House on Friday, Feb. 4, endorsed Gov. Bob McDonnell’s $4 billion transportation plan.

On a mostly party line 65-33 vote, the House advanced the plan to the Senate. The bill includes borrowing about $3 billion during the next three years. Another $1 billion in available cash would be used to pay for up to 900 projects.

The governor’s proposal represents what could be the largest one-time state infusion of money into transportation since the Virginia fuel tax was increased in 1986, according to reports.

“We took a major step forward today in our efforts to put the largest injection of funding into the Commonwealth’s transportation system in a generation,” McDonnell said in a statement.

Nearly $1.8 billion of the proposed debt relies solely on state revenue. About $1.1 billion would be repaid using a portion of federal highway funds the state gets each year.

Critics of the plan say the state should not undertake new debt to get road work done. At the same time, many detractors acknowledge that something needs to be done about the state’s transportation system.

The bill – HB2527 – represents the biggest chunk of the McDonnell’s overall transportation proposals.

One component of the governor’s agenda has already advanced from the House to the Senate. A proposed constitutional amendment is sought to protect the state’s transportation fund.

Sponsored by Delegate Glenn Oder, R-Newport News, the measure – HJ511 – would protect the fund from transfers to the general fund.

A separate component of the governor’s agenda has been rejected. HB2404 called for taking $100 million of sales tax revenue collected in Northern Virginia each year and applying it to road and transit projects. Another $50 million in tax revenue in Hampton Roads would have been added.

The House Appropriations Committee failed to act on the bill, effectively killing it. The Senate Finance Committee also voted to kill the Senate version.

Sen. R. Edward Houck, D-Spotsylvania, said the bill would have devastated the state budget.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Virginia, click here.

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