Lawmakers in Richmond are one step away from approving major changes to the way the state pays for transportation projects. The bill passed the House of Delegates 60-40 Friday, and is now pending in the state Senate.
The $880 million compromise would overhaul the state's transportation funding structure. It replaces the 17.5 cent fixed gas tax at the pump with a 3.5 percent tax on gas at the wholesale level. It also raises the state's sales tax, and earmarks more general fund revenue for transportation. The plan calls for hikes in vehicle titling fees, and a $100 annual registration fee for alternative fuel vehicles.
"We realized a very significant challenge and a problem that we hadn't addressed in years, and we were determined to do so," said Del. Chris Jones, who helped craft the bill. "It'd probably be one of the most important [votes], if not the most, because of economic development."
But the deal doesn't have the favor of everyone in the legislature. Many on the right are concerned about the additional revenue proposals in the bill, like the sales tax hike. Others, like Del. Robert Marshall, are frustrated the plan didn't receive more public scrutiny before its vote Friday in the House of Delegates.
"It annoyed me that lobbyists who were in favor of this [bill] had access to this, but citizens could not go on the internet and get a copy of this bill to read it themselves," Marshall said. "This is not government in the open, this is slipping things by."
Nothing is set in stone yet. Senate lawmakers return to work Saturday to vote on the bill. Democrats have threatened to derail a transportation plan if the General Assembly fails to include a compromise on Medicaid expansion in its final budget amendments. They want Governor McDonnell to sign off on the idea before Saturday's vote.