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Sunday, February 17, 2013
The Roanoke and New River valleys and the rest of Southwest Virginia are not bedeviled by traffic gridlock. But the region still has a big stake in the transportation funding negotiations going on between the House and Senate in Richmond.
We’d like to hear our readers’ views on the underlying issues.
Virginia will have more money for critical transportation needs if the General Assembly can agree on a bill that Gov. Bob McDonnell is willing to sign. How that money is, or is not, generated will have an impact on funding for other state priorities, like education, for years to come.
The House-passed version closely aligns with the governor’s package. The House would eliminate the state gasoline tax, a dedicated transportation tax regarded as a user fee. It would replace that money by raising the state sales tax and also taking a larger share of existing revenues for transportation. Most sales tax revenue goes into Virginia’s general fund to pay for education, health and public safety programs.
The Senate-passed version would not raise the sales tax and would direct a bit more of it into transportation, but less than in the House version. The Senate bill relies instead on dedicated taxes — a higher gas tax at the pump, a tax at the wholesale level and higher vehicle registration fees — to begin to meet long-neglected transportation needs.
So, more hangs in the balance than passenger rail service to Roanoke, a coveted carrot that McDonnell dangled and which appears in both the House and Senate bills. Roanoke Del. Onzlee Ware, one of only four Democrats to vote for the House bill, is now the sole Southwest Virginia legislator on the negotiating committee.
What do you think his, and the state’s, priorities should be?
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