The House of Delegates has passed 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 bill passed by a vote of 60-40.
A vote is still pending in the Senate on the legislation, which is a top priority for Gov. Bob McDonnell.
The bill would scrap the state’s 17.5 cents per gallon tax on gasoline and apply a 3.5 percent tax on the wholesale price of fuel. The plan also would increase taxes on retail and automobile sales, impose a 6 percent tax on the wholesale price of diesel fuel, and dedicate a greater portion of the existing sales tax to help fund road, rail and transit needs.
Del. Onzlee Ware, D-Roanoke, helped negotiate the compromise and made a vigorous argument for it on the House floor during this afternoon’s debate on the bill.
“If you’re going to be a leader down here, you’ve got to stand up against all the obvious odds and do what’s right,” Ware said.
The bill, sponsored by House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford County, divided Republicans and some conservative delegate spoke out against it before the vote.
Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge County, responded to colleagues who said the state must do something to fix it’s chronically underfunded transportation system. Cline said the fix was a “laundry list” of higher taxes.
“This bill does something. But I will tell you it’s the wrong thing when it comes to Virginia’s economic success,” Cline said.
Ware voted for the bill, as did independent Lacey Putney of Bedford and Republicans Chris Head of Botetourt County, Charles Poindexter of Franklin County, and Joseph Yost of Blacksburg. Republicans Greg Habeeb of Salem and Nick Rush of Christiansburg voted against the bill.
– Michael Sluss