Virginia Budget Unveils Road Funding

The Virginia legislature is working at full pace with a very short legislative session. Road fundinghas been one of the banes of the Virginia budget though transportation has been a central plank of Governor Bob McDonnell's political platform. Gov. McDonnell announced several additional elements for his transportation agenda which includes outlining the detail for $2 billion spending plans with a further $2 billion to be announced.

The initial presentation of the transportation budget elements involves borrowing plans for $3 billion over the following three years. Lawmakers have also found $1 billion within existing state reserves which will be allocated to around 900 road projects.

The expectation is that road and bridge construction will be dramatically sped up, in addition congestion will be eased and increasing economic development achieved, not least when job creation is a major issue for the state's voters.

While this all sounds good on paper, this is not yet law - the bills to handle the accumulation of the road and infrastructure financing have been introduced but have to pass the House and Senate. Some sops to taxpayers are being offered - not least a pledge by Gov. McDonnell not to raise any taxes.

Rather than raising specific taxes a fraction of the state's 5% sales tax is being re-allocated (1/4%) which will be specifically targeted. Fairfax representative, Delegate Tom Rust (R) has sponsored the legislation which will see $100 million delivered from the sales tax to relieve congestion in Fairfax County, one of the major suburbs of Washington D.C. A further $50 million will be allocated to road infrastructure projects in Hampton Roads. Tom Rust is also the sponsor legislation which will see a reclassification of Virginia's roads, which in turn will affect how they rank for future funding allocations.

Delegate Glenn Oder (R) of Newport News is asking for a constitutional amendment in order to ensure the state transportation fund is protected. Given the immense budgetary pressures to balance the state books, there have been raids on previously sacrosanct budgetary reserves to supplement the state's general fund. Measures were already under way to use some of the transportation reserves for other purposes.

State Senator Mark Obenshain (R) form Harrisonburg has also introduced legislation to use proceeds from the state'sliquor stores to provide $300 million to supplement the Transportation Infrastructure Bank. Other legislative efforts include a levying $50 per container for shipping companies which move cargo containers via rail or transport barge, and which will be applied to road infrastructure. There are also moves to reduce the number of trucks using I-64 in the Hampton Roads area. There are no plans to levy a sales tax on trucks for sale or other carrier equipment.

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