Taxes, Tolls, Guns and IDs as the Virginia General Assembly Kicks Off

Virginia’s General Assembly session got underway Wednesday, and both political parties are buzzing with Big Ideas they hope will transform the commonwealth.

That’s the hype. The reality is that the entire 2019 session, and almost all the legislation proposed in it, is intended to influence the November elections.

(Oh, and of course, no matter what happens in Capitol Square, President Trump’s long shadow will loom over everything and everyone.)

With all that in mind, what’s on tap?

Republican House leaders are staking their political fortunes on expanding the standard income tax deduction and a few other tweaks to allow Virginians to reap more of the benefits of the 2017 federal tax overhaul.

It’s not exactly a tax cut, but it’s in a neighboring zip code, and that’s good enough for political purposes.

In a call with reporters Friday, House Finance Committee chairman Lee Ware admitted the House wasn’t attempting “comprehensive tax reform,” which is a shame. It’s long overdue but probably impossible in the 46 days of the 2019 session.

But, Ware said, the leadership’s proposal was “needed now, so the Trump tax cuts [are] fully implemented in Virginia.”

So it’s almost a tax cut. And Ware’s was the only mention of the president’s name during the call.

Appropriations Committee chairman Del. Chris Jones put a bit of a damper on the affair when he said the House proposal would have sunset clauses attached to it because the federal changes on personal income taxes expire in 2024.

So it’s not the cleanest or the sexiest sell. And it doesn’t address corporate taxes, either.

But it’s still incredibly important to the GOP, particularly with word coming out of the governor’s office last week that a gaggle of Republican lawmakers were ready to carry a $2.2 billion proposal to improve Interstate 81. And pay for those improvements in mobility and safety with tolls.

The proposal would establish limits on toll rates and would offer owners of automobiles and small trucks an annual pass allowing unlimited use of I-81 for a fixed yearly fee.

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