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Senate Avoids 'Dead End' on Transportation - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Senate Avoids 'Dead End' on Transportation

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A long-term plan to fund transportation projects in Virginia is back on track, at least for now. The state Senate passed a new transportation bill Wednesday with a 26-14 bipartisan vote.

This comes a little more than a week after Senate lawmakers failed to break a 20-20 partisan stalemate on another long-term transportation funding bill. This time around Democrats and Republicans came up with a new plan that would garner enough votes to pass an equally divided Senate.

The Senate plan would increase the state's 17.5 cent tax on gas at the pump by 5 cents, to 22.5 cents per gallon. It also institutes a one percent sales tax on the wholesale price of a gallon of gasoline. The plan also includes a provision, popular among legislators from the Northern Virginia and Tidewater regions, that would allow localities to levy their own regional sales tax on gas.

It's a plan that differs almost entirely from the one passed by the House of Delegates. That plan, proposed initially by Governor McDonnell, seeks to eliminate the states retail gas tax altogether. In its place, the sales and use tax (which includes all items sold in the state, excluding food and fuel) would increase from 5.0 to 5.8 percent.

Neither of these plans, though, will be the one that makes it to the governor's desk. And lawmakers on both sides know that.

"This was actually I think the fifth version of transportation that we'd seen on the Senate side," said Ryan McDougal, Senate Republican caucus chair.

Democratic Senator Creigh Deeds anticipates even more compromise in the next few days.

"It's not a perfect bill, you know. But you've got to have something in motion before you develop the compromise that passes," Deeds said.

Lawmakers will now form a conference committee to hammer out the differences between the radically different House and Senate plans. A new proposal will likely emerge from that committee next week, before the session adjourns February 23.

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