TYSONS, Va. (WUSA) -- Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is putting the pressure on Senate Democrats to pass a transportation plan. On Tuesday or Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee will consider the Governor's plan that the House of Delegates passed last week.
According to Gov. McDonnell, the plan will generate $3 billion in the next five years for road and transit improvements and will create an estimated 20,000 jobs.
The Republican-dominated House passed the measure by a 53-46 vote last Wednesday. The plan would raise the state sales tax to 5.8%, (a .8 percent increase) and it would eliminate the gasoline tax. If the plan becomes law, Virginia would be the first state in the nation to get rid of a state gas tax.
Gov. McDonnell held a news conference in Tysons along the Dulles Toll Road to make an important point about funding and rising tolls. In his plan, he included $300 million in funding for Phase II of the Metro Silver Line to Dulles. That money will help alleviate sharp increases in tolls along the Dulles Toll Road. Without that money, the toll one way would rise to $6.75 by 2018. The tolls are part of the funding stream for the Silver Line.
"It is crucial to have additional financing come to the toll road if we are going to mitigate tolls," Jack Potter, President of The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
Democrat Dick Saslaw, Senate Minority Leader, has blasted the notion of deep-sixing the gas tax primarily because the gas tax brings in out-of-state money. But Gov. McDonnell said he and Saslaw had exchanged cordial letters this week about the need for a solid transportation funding.
The current fund derives its revenue from the gas tax, which McDonnell points out is dwindling due to more fuel efficient cars. He says the tax will continue to bring in less money, and he says the gas tax is more regressive than the sales tax. For those reasons, he would like to do away with it.
The transportation fund is also being diminished because Virginia's 17.5 cents gas tax has not been raised in 26 years, and no new revenue stream has been tapped. Since money is constantly being taken from the fund to be used on maintenance, the fund is scheduled to run dry in a few years.
As far his plan to eliminate the gas tax, McDonnell says he's not drawing a line in the sand and will look at other proposals, even hybrids that include a reduction of the gas tax and increase in the sales tax.
Bob Chase with the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance is optimistic. This is the best chance in years for passing a new transportation plan. Chase says the elected lawmakers just need to put aside their partisan biases and pledges and put the interest of the people first.