Va. mulls transportation shortfall
Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) is considering a host of options to help cover a massive shortfall in state transportation funding, including a small sales tax, tolls and the use of toll credits, according to state House and Senate Republicans.
But a long-debated increase to Virginia's gas tax is not among them and any comprehensive transportation funding plan is at least a year away, Republicans said Thursday morning at a forum held by the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance.
Estimates are that the state will need $100 billion in additional transportation funding over the next 20 years.
Democrats in attendance hammered McDonnell's proposal to privatize Virginia's 76-year-old monopoly on the sale of hard liquor, which has faced significant bipartisan resistance. In October, McDonnell (R) reversed course and opted not to hold a special legislative session this fall on the plan, which would replace Virginia's 332 state-run liquor stores with private retailers and allow outsiders to sell liquor wholesale.
"The first worst transportation funding idea I've ever heard of was the car tax," said Virginia Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax), who used a few choice expletives during his remarks. "The second worst was the idea to privatize the [expletive] ABC stores."
At the forum at the Center for Innovative Technology building in Herndon, Saslaw and other Democrats pushed legislators to revisit raising Virginia's 17.5 cent-per-gallon gas tax, noting that the District and Maryland have higher rates and North Carolina charges nearly 32 cents per gallon.
But Republicans said such a tax hike is not likely to see serious discussion in 2011. Del. Joe T. May (R-Loudoun), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said Virginians would ultimately have to pay for roads "much like you pay your utility bill," and Del. Thomas Davis Rust (R-Fairfax), a member of the House Transportation Committee and a self-proclaimed participant in a GOP-led panel looking at transportation funding, predicted the governor would propose a number of revenue-generating measures but that "it could take a year until we get it all figured out."
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