Local Commentary

Delegate Scott’s Richmond Report

Transportation: one more chance

Now that Governor Kaine has made his land use and transportation proposals to alleviate congestion and address infrastructure needs throughout the Commonwealth, we will shortly see whether his $850 million measure –or any other substantial continuous revenue stream–has a chance of passage in the House of Delegates. Specifically, will the House Finance Committee, with seven members from Northern Virginia give his, or any similar, proposals, a majority vote in that 22-member committee with 14 Republicans and 8 Democrats, one of whom is ill and may not be in attendance.

If six of the remaining seven Democrats vote for any of the transportation funding mechanisms, at least five of the 14 Republicans will be needed to ensure the bill reaches the floor of the House. Unfortunately, as of this writing, none of the three Northern Virginia Republicans from Prince William County (Frederick, Lingamfelter or Hugo) has agreed to vote for any measure that will raise fees or taxes for transportation.

We are also awaiting counter-proposals from General Assembly members. Several House and Senate members have announced intentions of submitting other statewide and regional proposals.

One such proposal is forthcoming from a bi-partisan group of House members, led by Delegates Dave Albo, Vivian Watts, and Tom Rust.

Several other Northern Virginians will also be co-patrons. It will raise nearly $400 million for Northern Virginia by increasing fees on commercial development, real estate transfers, and hotel occupancy. No general state taxes, such as the sales tax, would be raised in the Governor’s proposal or in the Albo-Watts-Rust bill. The Albo-Watts-Rust bill also appears unlikely to gain the support of Frederick, Lingamfelter or Hugo.

The gas tax shortfall

None of the above proposals will address the problem of revenue shortfalls resulting from the failure of the current gas tax to keep up with inflation.

Our current gas tax is levied on gallons, not price.  since it was adopted more than 20 years ago, the state’s 17-cent levy has lost the equivalent of 10-11 cents to increasing costs of construction, land acquisition and maintenance.

I have introduced a separate bill to change the gas tax from a tax on gallons to a tax on per cent of revenues –like a sales tax. This change does not immediately increase revenues, but, as the price of gas goes up, tax revenues will increase, thus insuring that our main source of revenue for transportation does not lose more ground to inflation.

Other proposals will be forthcoming from members of the state Senate, some of which will probably include a sales tax increase.

Town meetings on Saturday, Jan. 13

In addition to my annual voter survey (already mailed), I will participate in two town meetings on Saturday Jan. 13. The first will be held at 10 a.m. at the McLean Community Center. Senator Janet Howell and Delegate Vince Callahan will also participate.

The second town meeting will he held in the Falls Church Community Center at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Senator Mary Margaret Whipple will join me in Falls Church since she also represents the City and several nearby precincts.

The surveys and town meetings are always informative, and frequently lead to legislative proposals. Everyone is welcome to attend the town meetings.