Free Lance-Star reporter Chelyen Davis covers Virginia government.
Negotiators strike transportation deal: now goes to full Assembly
The small group of legislators negotiating a transportation funding compromise struck a deal this morning, but its fate in the full Senate and House remains to be seen.
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 4.3 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.
All told the statewide components of the agreement are expected to raise about $870 million a year when fully implemented, Jones said. Lawmakers are also working on 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.
Jones told reporters this morning that he was “very pleased” to have a deal that he thinks House members can support.
“I feel very confident that we will have a conference report that’s accepted by the House,” Jones said.
He said the lawmakers negotiating on transportation have been in frequent touch with McDonnell, who initiated this year’s push to reform transportation funding and who will have to sign any bill passed by legislators.
The governor, Jones said, “wants to get something done.”