Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling is calling on House and Senate negotiators to reach a transportation funding compromise that would include both higher taxes and more dollars from the state’s general fund and require concessions from both parties.
In a letter to the negotiators today, Bolling said “it is obvious” that any compromise will have to include higher taxes and more general fund money to get enough votes to pass in the House and Senate. Bolling distanced himself from Gov. Bob McDonnell’s position on the gas tax by indicating that some increase in the fuel levy could be an acceptable ingredient in a final bill.
Bolling, who is contemplating an independent bid for governor, is the presiding officer in the Senate. But he does not have the authority to break ties on revenue and spending bills.
The Senate on Wednesday passed a transportation funding plan that, among other things, would increase the state’s gasoline tax by 5 cents per gallon, making it 22.5 cents per gallon. McDonnell and the House of Delegates have endorsed a plan that would eliminate the gas tax and increase the retail sales tax from 5 percent to 5.8 percent.
“For example, through a modest increase in the gas tax as proposed by the Senate and an increase in vehicle registration fees as proposed by the Governor, significant new revenue could be generated for transportation,” Bolling wrote. “This will require willingness on the part of many Republicans to compromise on the issue of higher taxes and fees, and I encourage them to do so.”
In addition, Bolling wrote, “an agreement must include the transfer of significant general fund revenue to the Transportation Trust Fund. While the legislation approved by the Senate includes a modest general fund transfer, I believe a more significant transfer will be required to enable us to reach agreement.”
The Senate plan would increase the portion of the existing sales tax that is dedicated to transportation from 0.5 percent to 0.55 percent. The House plan would gradually increase the share to 0.75 percent over five years.
“If all parties involved in these negotiations keep an open mind and express willingness to compromise, I am confident that an acceptable transportation agreement can be reached this year,” Bolling wrote.
The full Bolling letter is here.
– Michael Sluss