The Senate passed a compromise transportation funding bill this afternoon, delivering bipartisan support for the most significant infusion of revenue for roads, rail and transit in 27 years.
The 25-15 vote sends the bill to Gov. Bob McDonnell, whose demand for a long-term transportation funding package was his top legislative priority.
The last roadblock to a deal wasn’t removed until today. An eleventh-hour opinion from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli threatened to upset a fragile compromise on Medicaid expansion that was critical to getting Senate Democrats to back the transportation bill. House and Senate negotiators addressed the issue this afternoon, allowing a vote on the transportation bill to proceed.
The House of Delegates passed the compromise on Friday. The deal would pump $3.5 billion into roads, rail and transit over the next five years and prevent rising maintenance costs from depleting the state’s highway construction budget.
The plan would scrap Virginia’s 17.5 cents per gallon tax on gasoline and apply a 3.5 percent tax on the wholesale price of fuel and a 6 percent tax on the wholesale price of diesel fuel.
The package also would increase the retail sales tax from 5 percent to 5.3 percent, increase the vehicle sales tax from 3 percent to 4.3 percent, and dedicate a greater portion of the existing sales tax to transportation. The plan also creates a dedicated source for rail funding, which could speed the extension of Amtrak service to Roanoke.
The House and Senate still have one piece of important legislative business to complete today, the final day of the General Assembly session. The two chambers must vote on revisions to the state’s two-year budget, which includes provisions to allow for the conditional expansion of Medicaid.
– Michael Sluss