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McDonnell Seeks Support for Transportation Plan

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell toured state Thursday urging support for his plan.

Gov. Bob McDonnell spent Thursday traveling across the state promoting his “Virginia’s Road to the Future” transportation plan, saying his proposal could help jumpstart a number of projects in Northern Virginia that have seemed to stall.

The plan has received mixed reviews from some state legislators this session, but a new poll from Christopher Newport University showed 63 percent of Virginia voters support McDonnell's plan, which hinges on doing away with the state’s 17.5 cents per gallon gas tax and increasing the state sales tax from 5 percent to 5.8 percent.

The poll, released Thursday, surveyed 1,015 people across Va. on a number of issues, including the governor's plan.

McDonnell’s plan also includes:

  • Keeping the 17.5 cents per gallon gas tax on diesel fuel.
  • Increasing the portion of the state’s sales tax that would go directly toward transportation funding from .5 cents to .75 cents over the course of five years.
  • Increasing vehicle registration fees by $15.
  • Imposing an annual $100 alternative fuel vehicle fee.

McDonnell said if his plan is passed, a number of transportation projects in Northern Virginia would be jumpstarted. Those projects include the Dulles Metrorail extension, improvements to the interchange at I-66 and Route 28 and widening Route 28 in Prince William County, among others.

A number of businesses and organizations across the state have spoken in support of the plan, including Amtrak, the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, the Home Builders Association of Virginia, Northern Virginia Technology Council, the Virginia Association of REALTORS and Wawa.

What McDonnell looked for Thursday was additional support from area business leaders, Virginia residents and organizations.

The governor has seen critics from both sides of the aisle: Republicans, many of whom have spoken against any kind of tax hike, and Democrats, who have said they don't want to give more general fund money to transportation over education and other state priorities.

Americans for Tax Reform has issued a statement against the governor's plan.

State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City), who has introduced an alternative to the governor's plan, has said McDonnell's bill "makes no sense." 

“I don’t think people buying and selling merchandise ought to pay a higher tax based on this out of state stress placed on our highways,” Petersen said at a town hall meeting this month in Vienna. “If you’re going to let those people use our highways for free meanwhile you raise taxes on ordinary Virginians, that’s a mistake.”

On Thursday, McDonnell said even after increasing Virginia’s sales tax, it will still be lower than neighboring states and shouldn’t have an impact on sales, McDonnell said. Additionally, people in neighboring states may start coming to Virginia for their gasoline, he said.

McDonnell said the funds dedicated to transportation from the state sales tax wouldn’t be allowed to be moved or used elsewhere, which has been done in the past.

By the middle of next week Virginia’s legislators will begin voting on transportation, McDonnell said; he wants to get something done and see it done this year.  Failing to act could erode Virginia’s ability to compete internationally, he said.

Related Stories:

(Jan. 9, 2013)

Speaker Supports Gov's Transportation Initiative (Jan. 10, 2013)

Gov. McDonnell Delivers State of the Commonwealth Speech (Jan. 11, 2013)

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