Northern Virginians Hear Kaine Plan
Looking out into the audience at the Prince William County government center last night, Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said he thought he saw some of the same people who attended his town hall meeting on transportation shortly after he was elected.
Back then, with four sessions of the General Assembly ahead of him, he was seeking ideas on how to bust some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation. After several rushes at that goal, he was back last night for what has become the political equivalent of a Hail Mary pass late in the game.
Comments from the crowd of about 200 in Woodbridge illustrated his problem: Many people struggle with traffic congestion so bad it diminishes their enjoyment of what otherwise would be a pretty good life in Northern Virginia. And many people wouldn't pay to make it better.
In explaining his plan to restore money for transportation spending through tax increases, Kaine said Virginia ranked fifth among states in personal income and 39th in taxes as a percentage of income.
That sounds pretty good, one county resident pointed out: "I like being fifth and 39th."
Hard to argue that one. Others, knowing the proposal includes not only some statewide taxes but also a 1 percent sales tax increase for Northern Virginia, noted that people from outside the region use its roads but don't have to pay the taxes.
A driver from Richmond or North Carolina could come on up and use Route 123 or Route 7 and wouldn't pay the regional sales tax.
Kaine noted that the best way to capture some of that outside revenue would be to increase the state's tax on gasoline. Not a bad idea as a transportation policy, he said, but untenable as a political matter. People see gas as "one of the necessities of life," he said, and would view a gas tax increase as equivalent to a new tax on food or medicine.
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