Conference committee reaches transportation deal

A House and Senate conference committee appears to have reached a deal on transportation funding. According to this report, the details include:

According to Del. Chris Jones, the agreement would eliminate the state’s current 17.5 cents-per-gallon gas tax and replace it with a 3.5 percent tax on gas at the wholesale level. The tax on diesel would be six percent.

The statewide sales tax would rise from 5 percent to 5.3 percent. The titling tax on vehicles would go from 3 percent to 4 percent. The agreement retains the $100 fee on alternative fuel vehicles that Gov. Bob McDonnell had proposed. It counts on money from legislation now before Congress that would make it easier for states to collect sales tax revenue from online sales, but if that bill does not pass by 2015, the agreement contains a trigger to raise the gas tax slightly higher.

The agreement still increases the percentage of general fund money dedicated to transportation, but not as much as McDonnell’s original proposal. It also increases the percentage of money dedicated to education, something Democrats pushed for.

That tracks very closely with an earlier report from the Washington Post.

Still to be hashed out are “two regional components for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, hoping to generate about $350 million a year for Northern Virginia roads and $175 to $200 million a year for Hampton Roads.”

The big question: will the rest of the General Assembly agree to the compromise?

And just for reference, all of this wheeling and dealing is going on against the backdrop of rapidly rising gas prices. According the AAA, gas prices in Virginia are three cents higher today than yesterday, 20 cents more than a week ago, and a whopping 42 cents more than they were a month ago.

Good news if you’ve decided to index gas taxes. Bad news if you’re the poor sap paying for it all at the pump.