Va. Senate Rewrites Governor's Transportation Bill

11:07 AM, Feb 12, 2013   |    comments
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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A Virginia Senate committee has rewritten Gov. Bob McDonnell's transportation funding reform bill.

The proposal would restore and increase the gasoline tax, add a 1 percent fuel sales tax and allow localities to add another 1 percent tax to fuel.

Changes to the House-passed legislation came in a Senate Finance Committee meeting Tuesday. The meeting was briefly held up by a Republican senator's demand that the bill's sponsor, Republican House Speaker Bill Howell, appear and explain it.

Republican Sen. Frank Wagner, however, offered his substitute to the Senate panel, which advanced it on a 9-6 vote.

The bill will face a floor vote later this week, then return to the House where it will likely be rejected. That will set up negotiations for a small committee of delegates and senators.

Statement of Governor Bob McDonnell on Senate Finance Committee Passage of Transportation Legislation:

"This morning, another step was taken towards passage of a comprehensive long-term transportation funding plan for the Commonwealth. It is imperative that we find a solution now to solve the Commonwealth's growing transportation needs. We are on the brink of getting such a plan passed. Now, both chambers and both parties need to come together to craft a final plan that can pass both the House and Senate, and that I will sign. That plan must be fiscally responsible and balanced.

The bill approved by the Senate Finance Committee today is much different in scope from our original proposal, although it contains several key elements. The Senate bill uses far too little in general funds, which is an essential part of a solution. 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. The Senate bill, though, will raise gas taxes and gas prices for the consumer. However, it is important to remember; today's action is not a final bill. Instead, it simply advanced the process of passing a final transportation plan to the next step.

Tomorrow, the full Senate will take up this legislation. It is imperative that the Senate move the process forward again. By passing a bill, this legislation can proceed into conference committee where more changes and thoughtful final decision-making can occur. I fully expect a final transportation bill to be more fiscally responsible and balanced, recognizing transportation is a core function of state government. It is also critical to ensure that the conference report legislation can be supported in both the House of Delegates and the State Senate, and is legislation that I can sign into law. Today's vote continues the legislative process. 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. I look forward to working with legislators to accomplish this goal in the days ahead."

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