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Possible Political Showdown Ahead Over Va. Transportation Bill

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Possible Political Showdown Over Va. Transportation

NBCWashington.com

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Virginia lawmakers have a lot of homework to do digesting the nearly 100-page transportation funding bill.

The Virginia House of Delegates is expected to vote Friday on the measure that would raise about $880 million a year for road and transit, but a political showdown could also be ahead as some anti-tax House Republicans and Virginia's attorney general have expressed opposition to the bill.

During an appearance on a Fredericksburg radio show Thursday morning, House Speaker Bill Howell promised he has the 51 votes needed to approve the bill. Senate approval is also required.

The compromise reached by House and Senate negotiators would trade the state's 17.5 cent gas tax for a new, 3.5 percent wholesale tax on gas. The state's sales tax would also climb from 5 percent to 5.3 percent. The bill also contains a $100 annual alternative fuel vehicle fee. Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads would also have the ability to raise added funds through local taxes, revenue that would stay in those regions.

Although the bill varies significantly from the one initially proposed by Gov. Bob McDonnell, he expressed support for the measure.

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling also urged the House and Senate to pass the bill.

"This is not a perfect plan," Bolling wrote in a statement. "This is a deal that generates real money for transportation and it will finally solve our long-term transportation funding needs."

But Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli sees the bill differently. In a statement, Cuccinelli criticized the measure as a massive tax increase.

"In these tough economic times," he wrote, "I do not believe Virginia's middle class families can afford massive tax increases and I cannot support legislation that would ask the taxpayer to an even heavier burden than they are already carrying, especially when the government proposes to do so little belt tightening in other areas of the budget."

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