VIRGINIA

McDonnell proposes replacing gas tax with sales tax

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The gasoline tax in Virginia could soon be eliminated in the name of progress, but it comes at the price of an increased sales tax. That’s the center of a massive plan proposed by Governor Bob McDonnell on the eve of the legislative session. The goal is to increase funding for transportation projects.

The Governor’s office says eliminating the gas tax would make gas in Virginia the cheapest on the East Coast. All drivers would be happy with that result, but northern Virginia democrats call the McDonnell’s plan nothing but a band-aid solution.

Some would describe northern Virginia’s traffic as awful and frustrating, and one reality in trying to limit the pain is to pay for it.

Jimmie Vaughn Adams of Alexandria believes the cost of growth cannot be ignored.

“Transportation, traffic and road construction is certainly a priority and it has to be,” he says.

In Richmond Tuesday, Governor McDonnell made his pitch for additional transportation funding this session. The proposal aims to raise more than $3 billion over the next five years. It would eliminate the gas tax and replace it with an increase in the sales tax, plus dedicating more sales tax money to transportation. The plan also includes a $15 increase in vehicle registration fees, plus a $100 fee for alternative fuel vehicles.

“I don’t think it’s a new idea at all,” says Delegate Mark Keam (D) Fairfax County.

He says what the state needs is a long-term, permanent fund dedicated solely to transportation, something that would likely require an unlikely solution: tax increases.

“When the governor has to ask his republican colleagues to sign something that deals with new taxes, good luck to him,” says Keam.

Delegates like Keam say in Fairfax County alone, there are $3 billion short of meeting transportation needs for the next decade and need serious help from the state. But with a governor’s race this year, along with all the state delegates up for re-election, lawmakers aren’t expecting any big, risky votes this session that could cost them votes in November.

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