Morris, Tyler support governor’s transportation plan

Published 2:56 pm Wednesday, February 6, 2013




RICHMOND—Gov. Bob McDonnell expressed his disgust after his transportation-funding package that would replace the state’s gasoline tax with a higher sales tax and vehicle registration fees was derailed by Senate Democrats Tuesday.

The House version of the governor’s transportation plan had passed earlier in the day. Western Tidewater lawmakers Del. Rick Morris, R-Carrollton, and Roslyn Tyler, D-Jarratt, favored the bill.

The Senate Democrats had a different idea. All 20 Democratic senators, including Western Tidewater representative Louise Lucas, Portsmouth, vowed to vote against the bill, blocking it for this legislative session.

The proposed bill would eliminate the state’s 17.5-cents-per-gallon gas tax. At the same time, it would raise the sales tax in Virginia from 5 percent to 5.8 percent. The bill also would raise the registration fee for private vehicles from $33 a year to $48.

The governor’s hopes were raised when the Republican-controlled House of Delegates passed the bill, a step toward funding “Virginia’s Road to the Future,” McDonnell’s plan to invest $3 billion in road and transit projects over the next five years.

“Our citizens have told us loud and clear that now is the time to get something done on transportation. They deserve a modern, well-funded transportation system that will get them to work and home on time, without delay,” McDonnell said after the 53-46 vote in the House.

Delegates amended the bill to delete an additional fee for hybrid car owners and to prohibit tolls on Interstate 95.

In the evenly divided Senate, the Democratic opposition doomed the bill, raising the specter of a 20-20 tie vote. And because the matter involved revenue, Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who presides over the Senate, could not break the tie in the GOP’s favor.

Sen. Stephen D. Newman, R-Lynchburg, offered a substitute that would ditch the proposed increases in sales tax and vehicle registration fees. Senate Democrats voted as a whole to scrap that idea as well. They were joined by Republican Sens. Emmett Hanger of Mount Solon and John Watkins of Midlothian.