General Assembly negotiators have signed off on a compromise transportation funding package that would generate about $880 million annually by 2018 and include funding to extend passenger rail service to Roanoke.
The 10 House and Senate negotiators met this morning to finalize a deal that would scrap the state’s 17.5 cents per gallon excise tax on gasoline, increase taxes on retail sales and car titling, and apply a new tax to the wholesale price of fuel too help fund the state’s road, rail and transit needs. If the General Assembly and Gov. Bob McDonnell approve the plan, it would be the most significant state transportation funding package to be enacted since 1986.
“It’s a reasonable, sustainable transportation package that gives something to everyone throughout the state,” said Del. Onzlee Ware, D-Roanoke, a member of the House negotiating team on the bill.
House and Senate negotiators are still working out details of regional transportation funding options for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Legislators have received briefings on the compromise today. The full House and Senate could vote on a final package Thursday.
The compromise was sealed after three days of talks between House and Senate negotiators, who reached an agreement on the broad parameters of a deal Tuesday night.
“I’m pleased with the fact that we have a plan that will move us forward, that will give us a revenue stream that will sustain our system,” said Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan, a member of the Senate negotiating team.
The plan would eliminate the state gas tax at the pump, but apply a 3.5 percent tax to the wholesale price of gas and a 6 percent tax to the wholesale price of diesel fuel. It also would increase the state’s sales tax from 5 percent to 5.3 percent and increase t– Mhe vehicle titling tax to 4.3 percent. The tax on automobile sales is now 3 percent, or 2 percentage points less than the current retail sales tax rate.
The plan also would increase the share of the existing sales tax that goes to transportation from 0.5 percent to 0.675 percent over four years, a concession by Democrats. And it would impose the $100 annual fee on alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles that McDonnell first proposed last month.
Senators received a public briefing on the compromise earlier this afternoon before Republicans and Democrats went their separate ways to discuss the proposal in closed door caucus meetings.
Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, called the proposal a “classic compromise” and said he intends to vote for it.
“I hope it will get enough votes to pass,” Edwards said. “The way they structured it, it will continue to grow with the economy and inflation.”
– Michael Sluss