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Moran and Deeds Debate Gas Tax Increase

Tim Craig

The General Assembly's debate over transportation this week set up a rare, clear division between the two Democratic candidates for governor next year.

Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) voted in favor of a plan by Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) to raise the state's gas tax by six cents over six years, which would cost the average family about $45 a year. Deed's likely opponent in next year's Democratic primary, Del. Brian J. Moran (D-Alexandria), voted to strip the gas tax from Saslaw's bill when it got to the House floor.

The two campaigns are now throwing verbal jabs at the other over the issue.

Instead of the gas tax, Moran voted for a bill, which ultimately failed, that would have increased the auto titling tax by one half percent and increased the sales tax one quarter percent, while decreasing the sales tax on food.

"Just this week, gas prices crossed $4 per gallon average in Virginia and people are struggling," said Jesse F. Ferguson, a Moran spokesman. "Delegate Moran put forward plans to solve our transportation crisis and relieve traffic congestion without raising gas prices. When people are struggling in this economy, raising gas prices is like throwing an anchor to a drowning man."

Peter Jackson, a Deeds spokesman, counters Deeds supported the gas tax increase because he and his Democratic colleagues in the Senate were focused on "finding a statewide solution to the transportation problem."

"You saw the acrimony, the bickering and the political gamesmanship in the House of Delegates," Jackson said. "Contrast that with the Senate that passed a plan that created a 21st century statewide vision for transportation. The devil is in the details, but the details are not what this is about. Virginians expect lawmakers to come home with a solution. That is what Senator Deeds was working towards."

Jackson also referenced a 2007 Daily Press article in which Moran is quoted as saying an increase in the gas tax was "reasonable and prudent."

Ferguson noted those comments were made when gas was still less than $3 a gallon.

"With gas at $4 a gallon anyone who wants to raise gas taxes is out of touch with what people are going through," Ferguson said. "Brian has never voted for a gas tax increase."

Jackson maintains Deeds did the right thing by supporting Saslaw's bill. "It is very clear where Senator Deeds stands, providing transportation solutions for Virginia. The same can't be said of Delegate Moran," Jackson said.

By Tim Craig  |  July 11, 2008; 1:08 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Brian J. Moran , Creigh Deeds , Tim Craig , Timothy M. Kaine , Transportation  
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"With gas at $4 a gallon anyone who wants to raise taxes is out of touch with what people are going through," Ferguson said.

He's right about that. Unfortunately, all the Dems faught and voted for one tax-increase or another.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse

At over $4/gal., who's going to notice an extra penny a gallon per year? The GOP is out of touch with their NO TAXES mantra.

Posted by: Arlington Gay | July 11, 2008 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Let's stop having either side tossing names at each other, or making claims about who is in touch or not.

I agree with Creigh Deeds. His approach is practical in that it solves the need for new revenue and provides an easy to audit trail so that the funds would not be as likely to be diverted.

Both sides know that more revenue is needed. I see Creigh Deeds' approach as being more forthright, since he is not trying to hide the increase with subterfuge. With the HB6055, we still got an equivalent tax increase, but it was done with a collection of fees, fines and regional taxes.

I agree with the premise that all of us benefit from roads, so a statewide solution is the best answer. I also like the idea that a consumption tax will be paid my millions of travelers from other states as they use Virginia's roads.

One point that I would like some compromise on from the Democrats is a sincere effort at reducing the size of the tax increase by subjecting the budget to some targeted cuts.

I am sure many citizens can suggest places to cut 10-15% or entire programs. With a genuine effort by by sides, they should be able to find $400,000,000 in cuts in the current budget.

Posted by: J. Tyler Ballance | July 11, 2008 4:57 PM | Report abuse

A gas tax might have made sense if it didn't cost over $4 per gallon, but in the current climate Moran's plan makes a lot more sense. Moreover, the corresponding reduction to the Moran plan in taxes on food will also help those who are on the financial edge.

Posted by: Carla57 | July 13, 2008 1:05 AM | Report abuse

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