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Posted at 12:56 PM ET, 01/31/2011

Bill to send existing sales tax to Northern Virginia for roads faces 'tough' future

By Anita Kumar
Anita Kumar

A House of Delegates subcommittee endorsed Gov. Bob McDonnell's proposal to designate a portion of the sales tax to road projects in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, but it faces an uncertain future in the state Senate.

Sen. Jeff McWaters (R), the Senate sponsor, said at a news conference Monday that approval in the Democratic-led Senate will be "tough" but the bill is important in the state's two most congested areas.

"I think it's timely,'' he said. "I think it's important and I think we all agree that transportation is a core service. I think at the end of the day this will help our communities. I think we're falling behind as a state. I think we're less competitive from a business perspective."

Democrats, who narrowly control the state Senate, likely will oppose the bill because they have long contended that Virginia's ailing road network requires raising additional revenue through a tax increase and not through using the state's general fund -- which provides money to core services like schools and public safety -- to finance highway improvements.

McWaters acknowleged that the bill will affect the general fund but said he hopes it will not impact core services because savings could be found through efficiencies.

The .25 percent of sales tax revenue generated in those regions would provide $140 million a year.

Over the next seven years, McWaters estimates the bill would send $720 million to Northern Virginia and more than $390 million for Hampton Roads. Overall, the two regions would retain $1 billion to help with projects in the six-year improvement program.

The House bill passed a subcommittee Monday morning. The Senate bill will be heard in committee Tuesday.

See the video of the news conference here.

By Anita Kumar  | January 31, 2011; 12:56 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar, General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, Robert F. McDonnell, State Senate  
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