The Governor’s transportation plan passed one hurdle today — the House Finance committee voted 14-8 to send the measure on to the full House.
And the statements from various concerned parties are rolling in. Speaker Bill Howell issued this, which says in part:
“I am very pleased the House Finance committee voted today to report with bipartisan support House Bill 2313, the legislation for Governor Bob McDonnell’s “Road to the Future” transportation plan,” said Speaker Howell. “With today’s vote, we are one step closer to delivering the long-term transportation fix that Virginians both want and deserve.
“Governor McDonnell’s plan will invest over $3.1 billion into Virginia’s transportation network by eliminating the gas tax and replacing it with a comprehensive funding proposal that solves both our short- and long-term transportation needs. It is an innovative plan that has the broad support of the business community, industry interest groups and the people of Virginia.
“And while today marks an important step, there is more work to be done. The legislative process is long and multifaceted. I appreciate the input and work of all members of the Committee and look forward to continuing to work on finding a solution. I am confident that at the end of the day we can pass a bill to address Virginia’s transportation needs.”
The Governor’s office followed with this:
“Today, our effort to enact a long-term solution to Virginia’s transportation funding challenges took a major step forward. The House of Delegates Finance Committee voted on a bipartisan basis to advance our comprehensive transportation funding and reform package that will provide $3.1 billion in investments for our roads and rail over just the next five years, and create a safe, efficient and reliable transportation system throughout the Commonwealth. I am pleased that legislators from both parties voted in support of our plan. We all recognize that the time is now to improve transportation in Virginia. The can has been kicked for too long, and Virginians deserve a modern, well-funded transportation system that will get them to work and home on time, without delay. This first vote clearly demonstrates a growing, and bipartisan, consensus that transportation is a core function of government and our investments in building and maintaining our highways, transit systems and railroads is of utmost importance to the citizens of Virginia. Today marks the first positive step forward in our effort to enact a long overdue, long-term transportation funding solution. Now, I look forward to continuing to work with legislators in both chambers, and from both parties, to see this plan passed into law, and get traffic moving again in Virginia.”
Yes, well that’s all fine and good, but there are still hurdles, obstacles and ditches galore in front of this bill.
Unless there’s a deal, of course. In that case, Virginia may be on the cusp of doing away with the user pays concept on fuel for good.
The committee vote is now available and you can see that a few Republicans voted against the measure. One of those was Del. Ben Cline, chairman of the Conservative Caucus. Cline issued the following statement:
“Conservatives recognize the need for a meaningful and long-term transportation solution for the Commonwealth,” said Delegate Cline. “Unfortunately, the bill that was approved by the House Finance Committee today would result in higher taxes for working Virginians. The tax reforms that would increase the sales tax and eliminate the gas tax are not revenue neutral, the bill does not include a “Lock Box” to secure transportation revenues, and the large fee increases on car registrations and on hybrid vehicles are primarily directed toward mass transit in Northern Virginia instead of toward road construction.”
Cline added, “During this fragile economic recovery from the worst economic recession in years, it would be wrong to increase the tax burden on working families and small businesses struggling to make ends meet. I am hopeful that the bill will be improved as the 45-day session continues, and I will continue fighting to protect Virginians from higher taxes as we work to enact meaningful transportation reform.”
It’s an open question whether these sentiments will carry the day when the full House takes up the bill.
The floor debate ought to be a doozy.