With Gov. Bob McDonnell pushing the idea of eliminating the gas tax and raising the sales tax by 2 cents for transportation, Loudoun supervisors are concerned that the county could get shortchanged.
But not enough to back a proposal by Del. Randy Minchew (R-10) that would allow localities to collect up to a 10 percent gas tax for transportation needs within their borders.
Currently, Northern Virginia jurisdictions receive gas tax revenue as a group and split it up for transportation needs. The governor’s proposal would put the new sales tax revenue in the state’s General Fund, where it would complete with other items, like public safety and schools.
Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) proposed endorsing Minchew’s bill – HB 1663 – to guarantee the county could raise revenue in the case that McDonnell’s proposal passes. In addition, he said any money raised would be spent in Loudoun.
But a majority of supervisors were not on board.
“We weren’t elected to go this route,” said Supervisor Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian), meaning that she ran to lower taxes at the county level, not raise them.
Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) pointed out that the county has the option to raise the meals tax, but voters have rejected it several times, while Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) said it could just be the beginning of devolution, a process in which the state pushes transportation responsibilities onto local government.
“What I see this as is a justification that the legislature will use in the future for devolution,” Higgins said. “If we can pay for our own roads through the gas tax, they’ll give us the honor of paying for all of the roads with the gas tax.”
Board Chairman Scott K. York (R-At Large) said those who support transportation projects need to support some method of funding for them.
“The fact of the matter is we here in the Commonwealth of Virginia can talk all day long about how we support transportation, but until we’re willing to put the money in it, it does no good,” he said.
But Buona, who had asked the board to support Minchew’s bill, withdrew the request, expressing frustration with the lack of desire to find money for road construction.
“We don’t build roads with fairy dust,” he said. “We have to have a revenue source.”