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Free Lance-Star reporter Chelyen Davis covers Virginia government.

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Orrock, others backing gov’s transpo plan

Nearly every day, Gov. Bob McDonnell’s office sends out press releases trumpeting that a new interest group is backing the transportation funding reform plan he announced last week.

Today it’s Del. Bobby Orrock’s turn.

The press release came from House Speaker Bill Howell’s office, not straight from the governor’s office, but the gist is the same — Orrock, the vice-chairman of the House Finance Committee, is on board with McDonnell’s proposal. (So, according to the morning’s press releases, is House Finance chairman Del. Bob Purkey; House Transportation Committee chairman Del. Joe May; and the House Republican leadership, which includes Howell, House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox, Majority Caucus Chairman Timothy Hugo (R-Fairfax) and Majority Whip Jackson Miller. Howell and Hugo are sponsoring McDonnell’s bill.)

McDonnell wants to eliminate the state gas tax, raise the state sales tax, and increase fees for vehicle registration and alternative-fuel vehicles.

In an interview, Orrock said he has decided that it’s time for Virginia to move off its tradition of requiring that transportation be paid for by the user fee of gasoline taxes.

Virtually everyone, Orrock said, benefits from the transportation system, which ferries goods even for people who don’t drive a car.

“The road challenges are increasing the cost of goods,” Orrock said. “Time is money.”

Because roads are a critical infrastructure to everyone, he said, and because the state has “got to do something differently” on transportation funding, Orrock said he’s backing the governor’s bill, at least in general.

He doesn’t like all aspects of it, he said, but called it a good start.

Orrock said — as the governor has — that the gas tax is a declining source of revenue, as fuel standards rise. As long as it’s relatively revenue-neutral, he said, he can support replacing the gas tax with a sales tax increase. That provides a broader base for revenue.

“Since everybody benefits from it, isn’t it something that everybody should contribute to?” Orrock asked.

He said he dislikes the increase in vehicle registration fees in McDonnell’s bill, and thinks the proposed $100 fee on alternative-fuel vehicles is “kind of steep.”

 

 

 

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