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Senate Panel Amends McDonnell’s Roads Bill

Change brings to head debate about whether to rely upon the gas tax or the sales tax. What do you think?

By Whitney Spicer
Capital News Service
 

RICHMOND – The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday approved an amended version of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation funding bill, opting to raise the gasoline tax instead of replacing the gas tax with a higher sales tax.

The committee voted 9-6 for a substitute to House Bill 2313, which the governor hopes will fund billions of dollars in road and transit projects. The only committee member who represents Loudoun, Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-27), voted against the substitute.

“Today’s vote continues the legislative process,” McDonnell said afterward. “Now, we must work together to finish it with approval of a common-sense, fiscally responsible transportation plan that both works for Virginia’s citizens and can pass the General Assembly.”

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The Senate Finance Committee’s version of the transportation bill differs in many ways from McDonnell’s original proposal, which previously passed the House on a 53-46 vote.

The amended version would use revenues from general funds sales tax to eventually raise $900,000 million a year. It would also allow local jurisdictions to impose an additional 1 percent sales tax for transportation.

The most glaring difference between HB 2313 as it cleared the House and the version approved by the Senate Finance Committee involves the gasoline tax.

The House-approved version of HB 2313 sought to eliminate the state’s 17.5-cents-per-gallon gas tax and instead raise the sales tax from 5 percent to 5.8 percent.

The Senate Finance Committee’s substitute bill would boost the gasoline tax to 22.5 cents a gallon and adjust it in the future with inflation. McDonnell believes that’s a bad idea.

“I remain convinced that the gas tax is a declining revenue source and therefore we must look for new ways to meet our growing transportation needs,” McDonnell said.

The substitute bill will likely go before the full Senate this week for a floor vote. If passed, it then would return to the House for consideration.

“It is important to remember today’s action is not a final bill,” McDonnell said. “Instead, it simply advanced the process of passing a final transportation plan to the next step.”

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