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VA Senate Compromises to Pass Bipartisan Transportation Bill

Photo by Michael Loke

Wednesday, Senate Democrats joined Republicans to support a transportation solution that generates sustainable new revenues to fix Virginia’s transportation problem once and for all. This proposal, a substitute to HB 2313, passed the Senate on a vote of 26 -14.

Senator Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said, "I'm glad this plan passed the Senate with such bipartisan support. It raises enough money to fix our transportation problem. The Senate plan raises over $900 million per year for state transportation needs, and gives localities the flexibility they have been asking for to solve their unique problems. As long as the conference report resembles the Senate plan, we will have a transportation bill this year. If it varies too widely, we likely will not."

Senator A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) said, "I'm pleased the Senate approved this long-term plan to address Virginia's transportation crisis.  I'm especially pleased so many of my Republican colleagues voted for this plan, which raises sufficient revenue to address long-overdue construction needs across the Commonwealth. In the coming days and weeks, I look forward to working with the House of Delegates and Governor McDonnell to craft a final package that we all can support."

Senate Democrats, who had previously opposed using general funds or Marketplace Equity Act (MEA) revenue to fund transportation, compromised with the governor and Republicans in the legislature and unanimously supported a bill that would do both of those things in moderation. The plan moves about $50 million of general funds annually to transportation.

Background
The transportation bill passed the House of Delegates with only 53 percent of the vote, and only 12.5 percent of Democrats. The plan passed the House with 53 votes, of which just 4 were Democrats.

Key Facts
This plan raises the gas tax by 5 cents and indexes it to the cost of the construction materials it takes to build roads. It imposes a new 1 percent tax on wholesale gasoline (a “rack tax”), and increases the car registration fee by $15.

The plan directs an additional 0.05 percentage points of the state sales tax toward transportation. This moves about $50 million of general funds to transportation.

In the event the MEA passes Congress, two-thirds of that online sales tax revenue will be earmarked for transportation. Just under 20 percent will be directed to public education, with the balance going to localities. If the MEA fails to pass, the wholesale gas tax mentioned above will rise to 2 percent.

The plan also gives the three heavily congested urban regions the flexibility to raise revenue to address their unique transportation needs. Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads and Central Virginia will each be allowed to create and earn revenue from a new regional sales tax of up to 1 percent.

Source: Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus

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