If we are to believe the press releases coming from the Governor’s office, momentum is on the side of his transportation plan, with the realtors association joining the list of contractors, pavers, earth movers, transit fans and assorted chambers of commerce in favor of his proposal to ditch the gas tax in favor of a higher sales tax.
But outside association land, it’s a somewhat different story. The Wall Street Journal editorial page published this broadside against McDonnell’s idea, writing that his plan “violates the user pays principle of sound tax policy.” They conclude:
Mr. McDonnell’s plan mostly enriches the transportation lobby—transit unions, real-estate developers and the construction industry—while hurting motorists and taxpayers. Virginia lawmakers would be wise to reject it and think anew, as would transportation planners in other states.
And it appears some General Assembly conservatives have qualms about the Governor’s plan, too:
“Conservatives want to see taxes kept low,” said Delegate Ben Cline, R-Amherst, who co-chairs the caucus. “They want to see a plan in place that locks in transportation funding for transportation purposes and not diverted to other uses. And they want to make sure working families aren’t subjected to excessive fee hikes.”
Cline said he has conveyed his concerns about McDonnell’s transportation funding ideas to the governor. The caucus’ co-chair, Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, criticized McDonnell’s reluctance to use a larger portion of Virginia’s $1.4 billion surplus over the last three years for transportation funding.
“We have long-standing promises that have been made by governors, current and past, to lock up our transportation trust fund,” Obenshain said. “We need to fulfill that promise so that voters in Virginia have confidence that our transportation funds are going to be dedicated to transportation, not diverted.”
Obenshain said he wasn’t opposed to raising taxes to fund transportation, as long as the burden would be shared by both Virginians and people from out of state.
So all is not well and settled with the transportation plan. That’s to be expected. McDonnell’s proposal represents a huge change in the way transportation would funded in this state. I suspect that as the session wears on, more questions, and harder opposition, will arise — as will the deal making.
But did you see that line from Sen. Obenshain? He isn’t opposed to raising taxes for transportation. Let the games begin!