Va. Senate Kills “Royalties for Roads” Legislation

Yesterday, there was a heated debate in the Virginia State Senate about legislation that would decide how the Commonwealth would spend the royalties from drilling offshore for oil. SB 601, patroned by Sen. Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach), was killed by the Senate in a party line vote and was referred back to committee until next year.

The Washington Post reported that this bill was one of Governor Bob McDonnell’s top priorities, as the royalties received from drilling for oil off the coast of Virginia would have funded transportation projects/improvements. Virginia deserves to keep the royalties, and this measure would have ensured that Virginia would receive those funds, especially if Congress would change the law.
This also spurred response from Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Pat Mullins about the party line vote.

“For the life of me, I can’t understand why Democrats in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads would vote against sending additional money to transportation.” Mullins said.

“In its original form, SB 601 was something that should have made everyone happy — more money for roads that doesn’t come out of taxpayers’ pockets,” he said. “Yet for some reason, the entire Democrat Northern Virginia delegation voted on Monday to send that money to the General Fund. It simply defies logic.”

“Then, when Democrats had the chance to re-think their vote on Wednesday, they went the opposite direction and moved to kill the bill outright on a party-line vote,” Mullins said. “Senator Dick Saslaw went to great lengths to talk about how the money that would be parceled out is nothing but ‘false hope.'”

“But it’s important to remember that ‘false hope’ is what they called offshore drilling just a few years ago. Now, the only thing between the Commonwealth of Virginia and that ‘false hope’ is foot-dragging at the Obama administration’s Interior Department. If anyone is perpetuating false hope it is the Obama administration – not Republicans in Virginia,” he said.

“At the end of the day, the Democrats talk a good game about transportation, but when the rubber meets the road, they’re not interested,” Mullins said. “The only money they want to spend on roads is money that they raise through higher taxes on hard working Virginians.”

The debate will continue again next year. In the meantime, we are left to wonder where the funds for transportation projects will come from, especially considering that the transportation budget has been shot due to snow removal costs. If the Democrats in the State Senate get their way, it will come in the form of higher taxes.