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Posted at 3:27 PM ET, 02/ 4/2011

Virginia House passes McDonnell's transportation funding plan

By Anita Kumar
Anita Kumar

Gov. Bob McDonnell's transportation funding proposal moved one step closer to reality Friday.

The House of Delegates voted 65-33 Friday afternoon for the Republican governor's plan to pump nearly $3 billion in improving the state's clogged roads over three years.

McDonnell wants to issue two sets of bonds for transportation now to save money on construction and interest costs. The debt on $1.8 billion in bonds - about $135 million a year - would be paid back through the state insurance premium tax. The debt on $1.1 billion in bonds - about $80 million a year - would be diverted from the $800 million a year the state receives in federal highway funds.

Ten Democrats voted for the bill, including seven members of the black caucus: Kenneth Cooper Alexander (D-Norfolk), Mamye E. BaCote (D-Newport News), Rosalyn R. Dance (D-Petersburg), Algie T. Howell Jr. (D-Norfolk), Matthew James (D-Portsmouth), Lynwood W. Lewis Jr. (D-Accomack) Paula J. Miller (D-Norfolk) Clarence E. "Bud" Phillips (D-Dickenson) Lionell Spruill Sr. (D-Chesapeake) and Luke Torian (D-Prince William).

Three Republicans voted against it, including Robert B. Bell (R-Charlottesville), Ben L. Cline (R-Rockbridge) and R. Lee Ware Jr. (R-Powhatan). Watkins M. Abbitt Jr., an independent from Appomattox who caucuses with Republicans, also voted no.

"We took a major step forward today in our efforts to put the largest injection of funding into the Commonwealth's transportation system in a generation,'' McDonnell said in a statement. "This bipartisan effort will accelerate more than 900 projects statewide and that will mean congestion relief, economic development and jobs in every corner of the Commonwealth.

The Senate is expected to pass its version of the bill next week.

Some Democrats and conservative Republicans have been concerned about the state's rising level of debt, but McDonnell (R) and his team worked for weeks to alleviate fears and have convinced many lawmakers that the spending would not hurt the state's financial standing or its coveted AAA bond rating.

McDonnell had Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford), a longtime friend and powerful ally, introduce the bill in the House.

"This transportation funding plan is a timely and innovative solution to many of the infrastructure issues facing our Commonwealth," Howell said in a statement. "I'm pleased the House has advanced forward-looking and cost-effective legislation that represents a bold approach to ensuring Virginia has a 21st century transportation network. I now look forward to working with the Senate to advance this measure in that body."

By Anita Kumar  | February 4, 2011; 3:27 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar, General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, Robert F. McDonnell, State Senate, Transportation, William Howell  
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