Gov. Bob McDonnell made a stop in Northern Virginia on Monday afternoon to urge locals to push their representatives to support his divisive transportation-funding package, which the state Senate is scheduled to vote on again Tuesday.
The governor said his proposal, , would raise about $3 billion for road and transit improvements over the next five years. The bill would eliminate the state’s 17.5-cents-per-gallon gas tax and raise the state sales tax from 5 percent to 5.8 percent.
The House last week amended their version of the bill, eliminating a $100 alternative vehicle fee for owners of hybrid cars and prohibiting tolls on I-95 south of Fredericksburg.
Senate Republicans offered their own amendments to the bill, including proposals to raise the gas tax to 5.5 percent or even 8 percent. But Senate Democrats shot down both ideas.
In his statement, delivered at the administration headquarters for the Dulles Toll Road, McDonnell lamented the Senate vote, calling it a “terribly partisan result.”
McDonnell stressed the bill’s passage would raise $300 million that would go directly towards relieving the projected soaring toll prices when construction begins on Phase 2 of Metro's Silver Line to Dulles International Airport.
Phase 1, which runs from Tysons Corner to Reston's Wiehle Avenue, is slated to open in December. Unlike Phase 1, Phase 2 has no federal funding and may have to rely in tolls to help pay the costs.
Jack Potter, president of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, said the $300 million would decrease prices on the toll road by about 50 to 60 cents per trip in today’s dollars. He also said MWAA had already voted to increase tolls – currently $2.75 per trip – to $3.50 in 2014, and that they were expected to reach $6.75 by 2019.
Potter guaranteed the $300 million in the governor’s bill would go directly towards lowering tolls - which is crucial for Reston residents who must use the toll road to get most places.
Potter also said any other money from the state or federal government would as well.
“Any money that comes to us will go to the roll road and to mitigating tolls,” Potter said.
Jim Corcoran, president of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, said the $300 million for toll relief would be critical to the ongoing redevelopment of Tysons Corner, a massive project that will benefit the entire state.
“For this to continue to grow, for entrepreneurs to continue to build business here, we have to get this passed,” Corcoran said.
McDonnell said he had been in contact with Senate Democrats over the weekend, particularly Sen. Dick Saslaw (D-35th), and that he was optimistic about reaching some sort of compromise.
The governor even admitted he might be open to a bill that combined the two approaches, such as a reduced reliance on the gas tax and a smaller sales-tax hike.
“We could talk about that,” he said.
But he also said any plan he would consider approving would have to raise an amount of similar to the $845 million his current proposal is expected to generate.
McDonnell was strongly opposed to a bill relying solely on the gas tax, which he called a “declining revenue source.”
“I’m not going to sign a $1 billion tax increase,” he said.
Before compromises could be made, McDonnell said the bill first had to pass the Senate.
“We’re on the 40 yard line, maybe even the 30,” he said. “I want to get it over the goal line.”
For more on Gov. McDonnell's transportation bill, see below:
- Governor’s Transportation Plan Hits Roadblock
- McDonnell's Transportation Bill Moves Forward
- Speak Out: Will McDonnell's Tax Plan Help Virginia?