A Virginia lawmaker says it's time to do away with the state's gas tax and raise sales taxes instead. This as proposals continue to come in regarding how to raise money for something everyone agrees is necessary - road improvements.
Even Governor Bob McDonnell has made it clear something has to be done to maintain road projects throughout Virginia. How to keep that money coming in will be a major talker when the General Assembly re-convenes next month.
When you see road construction in the Commonwealth, you're looking at history. 14 billion dollars of construction is happening right now --the most ever seen at one time in Virginia.
"What we're trying to do is look for innovative ways to fund transportation that won't gouge the tax payer," said Del. Tim Hugo of Fairfax.
Currently the Commonwealth has a 17.5 cent gasoline tax that helps fund 30 % of transportation projects. Hugo says that's not enough. He wants to do away with the gas tax altogether and re-route the way state funds are allocated.
"We're proposing taking that surplus off the top and put that money into transportation. We think one it will stop the bleeding on the transportation trust fund and inject a billion dollars into transportation," he said.
He's also proposing raising local and state sales taxes from 5% to nearly 6%.
It's an idea political strategist Paul Goldman isn't sold on.
"If you pay a sales tax, it may be on food or clothing or other things that have nothing to do with the roads," Goldman said.
"The gas was tax was considered a user fee. That's why it was accepted even by conservatives. If you don't use the roads, you don't pay the tax," he added.
Instead of eliminating the gas tax, Goldman suggests putting the matter on a ballot so voters can say what they want, or even make it a regional issue, not a state-wide one.
"If there are areas that want to do more, that want their own chance to vote for a regional tax then let's give it to them this year," he said.
But Hugo is ready to push his plan in hopes fellow lawmakers will back it.
"If we don't do something now and get aggressive on it, we're going to be locked in gridlock from northern Virginia to Hampton Roads and Richmond and everything in between," Hugo said.
Virginia has one of the lowest gas taxes compared to nearby states. If it is thrown out, Virginia would be the first state to do so.
A roadblock here could be Virginia's Speaker of the House William Howell. He says the 45-day session coming up is simply too short to craft a major transportation deal.
Of course, we're gearing up to cover the General Assembly starting January 9th. We'll keep our eyes on this plan and bring you the latest details.
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