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Senate Vote Passes $880 Million Highway Reform

3:17 PM, Feb 23, 2013   |    comments
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RICHMOND, Va. (AP/WUSA9) - The state Senate has passed the first long-term reform to Virginia's floundering 27-year-old system for funding repairs and upkeep of its 58,000-mile network of highways.

The 25-15 vote sends to Gov. Bob McDonnell what would be the defining policy legacy in the fourth and final year of the single, non-renewable term Virginia allows its governors.

It would replace Virginia's 17 1/2 cents-per-gallon retail gasoline tax with a 3.5 percent wholesale tax on gasoline and a 6 percent levy on diesel fuel. It boosts statewide sales taxes from 5 percent to 5.3 percent. It increases the titling tax on car sales and adds a $100 registration fee for fuel-sipping hybrid vehicles. It also rules out proposed tolls on Interstate 95 south of Petersburg.

"Giving localities the responsibility to raise taxes to pay for a limited range of projects, while most existing revenue is diverted to wasteful new highway projects, is not a good deal. Over the long term, it will result in local tax base, not state transportation revenues, covering the cost of the transportation systems that serve the majority of Virginians," Chris Miller, President of The Piedmont Environmental Council said in a statement.

The Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth said it is now up legislators and local elected officials to watch-dog how the money is spent. 

"Where we spend our tax dollars and whether we are supporting more efficient, smarter growth with our transportation investments should be a central topic of this year's Governors race," he said.

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