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McDonnell reviewing transportation bill

RICHMOND—Gov. Bob McDonnell says he’s still reviewing the transportation funding reform bill passed on the last day of session and hasn’t decided yet what, if any, amendments he might offer.

McDonnell has 30 days from the end of the legislative session to amend or veto bills. The session wrapped up Feb. 23.

He had proposed a very different transportation bill himself, which lawmakers changed—the final bill replaces the current 17.5 cents-per-gallon gas tax with a 3.5 percent wholesale sales tax on gas, and raises the state sales tax to 5.3 percent. It also has some other components, including additional tax increases in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

During session, McDonnell backed the end bill, calling it a compromise, but he could amend specific aspects of it.

McDonnell said Thursday that he has signed about 100 to 120 bills so far, focusing on the easy ones first. The transportation bill, he said, is still undergoing “policy review” from his staff, legislative services and the attorney general’s office.

He said he’s heard from people on various aspects of the bill and has looked at “some technical changes,” but hasn’t focused on changes beyond that.

McDonnell’s backing of the transportation bill—and its tax changes—has earned him the ire of conservatives, who say he ran for governor promising not to raise taxes and has now broken that pledge. He said he’s neither surprised nor worried about those criticisms.

The state needed changes to maintain its transportation infrastructure, McDonnell said, and passing a transportation reform bill was in the state’s best interests. Sometimes such decisions, he said, “are just going to make people upset.”

McDonnell did say his office’s analysis of the statewide tax changes in the transportation bill indicates the average person would pay about $22 more a year under the bill. That doesn’t include the additional taxes in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

He compared that to the cost in time from long commutes and congested roads in Northern Virginia, which he called “a hidden tax.”

Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028