Following the transportation deal reached by the Virginia General Assembly, Gov. Bob McDonnell remarked, “This vote is an important moment for Virginia’s economy, Virginian’s quality of life, and our political system.” What McDonnell was really saying is, “Look America, I can get bipartisan legislation passed even in these toxic political times.”
The transportation package will now be headed to the governor for his signature after the Virginia Senate passed the transportation bill on a 25-15 vote on Saturday. The Virginia House of Delegates passed the transportation bill on a 60-40 vote on Friday.
The transportation package will shake a number of revenue-builders up in Virginia. First, Virginia’s sales tax rate will increase from 5 percent to 5.3 percent. Secondly, the package will increase regional taxes in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads for road projects to be constructed in those areas. Third, the transportation deal will replace Virginia’s 17.5-cents-per-gallon gas tax with a wholesale tax on gas and diesel. These are just three of the revenue-increasing measures contained in the transportation package.
Democratic Senators in particular were quick to point out that the transportation bill isn’t “perfect” but compromise is still warranted. It’s not a stretch to say that no matter where the final transportation deal landed, no one on the political spectrum was going to be entirely pleased.
Yet Sen. Chap Petersen (he’s so hardcore, he wears a bowtie!) made a number of convincing arguments in his opposition to the new transportation bill. Dividing Virginia up in terms of taxation (i.e., residents of Northern Virginia will pay higher taxes on certain things) is indeed a recipe for increased regional tensions among Virginia’s diverse segments. Furthermore, the complexity of the bill alone is enough to make anyone with any degree of legislative knowledge wary of how it will be managed in the long run.
Some Republicans in the General Assembly also made sense in their opposition. Sen. Ralph Smith (Bedford County) stated, “In a time when their dollar is not going as far as it once did, in a time when unemployment is higher than we would like it to be, the General Assembly is saying: ‘Well, you make out the best way you can but we’re going to take a bigger chunk of your wages.’”
Indeed, I didn’t see it talked about much (not at all by the mainstream media), but many of the taxes that will be increased amount to regressive taxes that will hamper the economically disadvantaged more than Virginia’s affluent. Once again, the little guy, so to speak, gets the biggest shaft!
Moreover, Virginia can’t continue taxing its way out of management ineffectiveness. Virginia’s transportation system isn’t degrading due to a lack of funds. It’s debilitated due to ineffectiveness in properly managing existing and new transportation projects.
Virginia needs more than just money. It needs a short term and long term plan for transportation. Otherwise, we might as well go ahead and raise taxes again. We’ll be needing them soon.