Tolls are on the table as Gov. Bob McDonnell and House Republican leaders prepare for a showdown with the Senate over raising taxes for transportation for the first time in more than 25 years.
The McDonnell administration said Wednesday that it is willing to back off of its plan to impose tolls on Interstate 95 if the General Assembly adopts his transportation funding package.
If that happens, the legislation approved by the House Finance Committee on Wednesday commits only to a study of whether the additional funding “will mitigate or eliminate the need to implement tolling on Interstate 95.” In the meantime, no tolling would be allowed on I-95 south of Fredericksburg.
As for those tolls being studied for I-64…maybe that idea will quietly disappear as the deal making gets more intense.
That the Governor would make such an offer at this stage does bring into question whether the whole I-95 tolling exercise was just an expensive, time-consuming ruse. Or perhaps it was just grasping at straws. No matter. It’s a bargaining chip now.
And other chips have been anted, too:
In addition to opening the door to dropping tolls, the McDonnell administration amended its bill to provide for a tax refund to drivers who would continue to pay the state tax on diesel fuel for their cars. The proposal would maintain the diesel tax to collect revenue from interstate truckers.
The amended bill also would remove natural gas-powered vehicles from a proposed $100 annual fee on alternative fuel vehicles, including hybrids, even though owners of conventional vehicles wouldn’t pay the state gas tax.
Connaughton said the fee on the other types of alternative vehicles, such as those powered by electricity, still would be justified, because drivers of those vehicles aren’t paying as much federal gas tax as people with conventional gas-powered vehicles.
An interesting sop to drivers of alternative fuel cars. In economic terms, they would be driving for free.
And for you poor saps who drive diesels…you get the rare honor of allowing the state to kite your fuel tax receipts for a year before it deigns to return them to you.
But all of these are mere possibilities — not legislative certainties. As the RTD article indicates, most of the members expect the House-Senate conference committee to do all the heavy lifting in this matter. And they are right. What that does mean, though, is that the details will be fleshed-out in relative secrecy by a handful of legislators and, if history is any indication, plopped on legislators’ desks just minutes before the final vote.
The more this plan evolves, the more Rube-Goldberg it becomes.
No wonder the Cuccinelli camp is working on its own transportation plan…