Despite what some lawmakers called a "renewed spirit of bipartisanship" last week in Richmond, challenges are looming as the General Assembly gears up to tackle transportation funding.
The fundamental disagreement threatening to derail a compromise has been, and continues to be, the gas tax. Governor Bob McDonnell and many Republicans want to scrap the 17.5 cent tax on gasoline, in favor of raising the sales tax 0.8 percent to help fund roads, rail and transit.
"You can raise the gas tax - in eight or 10 years you're going to have the same problem," McDonnell said Monday. "I'm trying to actually fix it long-term."
McDonnell says the rate of inflation and rising fuel efficiency standards threaten the long-term viability of a tax on gasoline. Furthermore, supporters of the idea say tying funding to the sales tax would guarantee better long-term growth. The governor's plan passed by the House of Delegates last week, and is now making its way through the Senate.
Many Democrats disagree with McDonnell's approach. They say increasing the sales tax could unfairly burden Virginians who don't use the roads, and support an increase in the gas tax to better target those who do.
Senate Democratic Leader Richard Saslaw said Monday his colleagues will only consider a transportation funding plan that includes a hike in the gasoline tax. McDonnell doesn't support the idea, but would not go so far as to say he would reject it if it makes it to his desk. Right now, McDonnell says he wants to see what kind of compromise lawmakers come up with.
"There are a lot of changes that always get made to big bills before they make it to my desk," McDonnell said. "I'm going to look at options that the General Assembly may present to me."
House and Senate lawmakers will begin working in conference committee this week to come up with a compromise. A new plan could emerge sometime next week.
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Ed joined the NBC29 news team in May, 2011. A Charlotte, NC, native, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in journalism and political science.Full Story
Ed joined the NBC29 news team in May, 2011. A Charlotte, NC, native, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in journalism and political science. Email/Follow on Twitter/ Full Story