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Posted at 12:04 PM ET, 01/24/2011

5 Democrats sign on to sponsor McDonnell's transportation bill

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Rosalind S. Helderman

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has successfully persuaded two leading Senate Democrats to sign on as co-sponsors of his transportation package, significantly boosting its chances of passage in the Democrat-led chamber.

Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Colgan (D-Prince William) and Vice Chairman R. Edward Houck (D-Spotsylvania) had both said encouraging things about the plan, which would involve spending $2.9 billion in borrowed cash on roads, along with $150 million of the state's $403 million surplus.

In separate bills, the governor has also proposed diverting $140 million in sales tax revenue -- generated in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia and now spent on other government services -- to roads in those regions.

But now the two have taken their support a step further and agreed to co-sponsor the legislation -- as have Sens. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk), Phillip Puckett (D-Russell) and William Roscoe Reynolds (D-Franklin) - as well as a number of Republicans.

If Republicans in the Senate stay unified behind the plan, McDonnell now has the votes to get the package out of the Senate with the votes of its sponsors.

The Democratic support for the legislation will complicate efforts by the state party to portray the plan as a Washington-style borrow-and-spend package.

"The broad list of legislators from both sides of the aisle who are leading the effort to pass this transportation plan is indicative of the fact that while many issues get political in Richmond, transportation should not be one of them," McDonnell said in a statement.

He noted that the bill's lead sponsors in the Senate are now Sen. William C. Wampler (R-Bristol), a Republican from deep Southwest, and Colgan, a Northern Virginia Democrat.

This post has been updated since it was first published.

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | January 24, 2011; 12:04 PM ET
Categories:  Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman  
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