The wheeling and dealing over transportation begins

Fresh off a win in the House Finance committee for his transportation plan, but perhaps not too keen on the measure’s larger prospects, Gov. McDonnell has decided to sweeten the pot:

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…

  • Mike Barrett

    How can you wheel and deal on legislation that is worse than that which it replaces? With no revenue from interstate sales on the horizon, this Bill provides less money for transportation than the gas tax does. Frankly, the absurdity of this proposal is sounding. Please, will republicans who admittedly have real political problems on their minds please just kill this thing so we can start over? For you will be the ones who pay when a confused citizenry finally figures out how absurd this proposal really is

  • Wally Erb

    When realizing that the Commonwealth is extremely liberal in the area of corporate and facility tax credits through the selling out of our legislators to special interest lobbyists, one wonders why the discussion of new revenue streams to fund transportation is even being considered.

    • pinecone321

      I truly believe that that is why Bill Bolling has been so unwilling to take his medicine. Just from the little research I’ve done, and finding out who Bolling biggest friends are, I believe he is unwilling to let go of his push for his crony companies he brought into the state. They are not onl;y subsidized by the state, but by the federal government as well.

  • Mike Barrett

    Yes, Bill Howell continues with the fairy tales as he tells the Washington Times..”“By investing over $3.1 billion into our transportation system over the next five years, we can finally fix transportation in Virginia once and for all.“ In this man delusional? First, without the internet sales, there is no new revenue. Second, even if there were, and it produced $3 Billion in five years, that is such a tiny fraction of our need for transportation infrastructure that it is less than a rounding error.
    Republicans have destroyed transportation infrastrtucture with two decades of inattention to real civil engineering imperatives. Their failures to deal with this crucial issue will take more decades to come. So instead of admitting their transgresstions, they continue to ignore the problem. What else is new?

    • pinecone321

      Hey Mikey the liberal, listen up. You claimed that it was only the “Speak of the House” that has any control over what happens in VA. You caiamed that the Gov’s have nothing to do with anything whether R or D. Can you still honestly remain with that position? Is the “Speak of the House” not promoting what Gov. McDonnell is pushing for?

      Again, where were your Democrat Governors when the transportation problems were already a major issue? A Tim Kaine or a Mark Warner could have made a major issue of this problem, right? Did anything happen under their Governorships? Nothing, nada, zip, goodbye.

  • pinecone321

    “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.”

    Of course McDonnell had to remove the “natural gas powered vehicles” from the $100 fee on alternative fuel vehicles. The state would have had a tremendous liability of the $100. fee. Gov. McDonnell signed an executive order that all state vehicles be converted to “natural gas” fueled vehicles. McDonnell signed contracts to have out of state providers come into the state to provide something like 6-8 natural gas vehicles stations to be built in order to service the state vehicles. Six fueling stations across the state means that if you are in a remote location, you are going to have to use a half a tank of gas just getting to the refuling station. God in Heaven this man has lost his freakin mind. And again, he won’t even be around to implement this crap sandwich.

  • David Obermark

    Can I suggest an alternative to the tax refund for diesel powered vehicles other then commercial vehicles? Eliminate the direct tax on diesel and just increase the surcharge these large vehicles paid through IFTA (International Fuel Tax Agreement). That way, the average citizens pays no fuel diesel tax but the commercial vehicle (truck) pays the tax on gallons consumed (not just purchased) in Virginia.

    My chief worry is that fuels might be subject to the sales tax without an IFTA credit for trucks. If that happens, then we end up running all the truck stops in Virginia out of business and I guess Virginia would need to build more extremely large rest areas with plenty of truck parking to make up for all the lost truck parking.

    My hope is that somehow, somebody is going to include the voice of the VTA (Virginia Trucking Association) in these discussions. I can’t keep up on all the details, but I bet they are keeping them under a microscope.

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