Va. Senate Rejects Alternatives to McDonnell Transportation Plan

House proposal - backed by the governor - only one left standing

Tuesday, Feb 5, 2013  |  Updated 9:12 PM EDT
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Va. House Takes Up Transportation Overhaul

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Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

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Va. House Takes Up Transportation Overhaul

The Virginia House made slight changes to the governor's transportation proposal.
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Two Virginia Senate floor amendments that would have offered the state alternative transportation funding streams have been rejected, leaving only a single House bill as Gov. Bob McDonnell's hope for a defining transportation reform legacy.

A proposal by Republican Sen. Steve Newman that would have replaced McDonnell's retail sales tax increase with a narrower 5.5 percent wholesale tax on fuel was rejected on an 18-22 vote.

A more ambitious amendment from fellow Republican Frank Wagner that would have set the fuel tax at 8 percent went down on a 7-28 vote.

Democrats called Wagner's bill "a step in the right direction'' but criticized both for using general funds that cover services such as schools, health care and public safety for transportation. They also said neither Republican proposal would yield enough money.

The Senate declined to vote on the governor's bill, sending it back to committee, effectively killing it.

The House proposal - the only one left standing - made a few changes in the plan originally promoted by the governor, reported News4 Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey.

The House measure still scraps the state's 17.5-cent tax on gas and instead hikes the sales tax up to 5.5 percent.

But lawmakers ditched an unpopular part of McDonnell's proposal that had Prius owners circling the Capitol in protest. Last week, lawmakers stripped out a $100 fee on hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles that the governor wanted to levy.

Still McDonnell called the House amendments friendly and praised the House action.

House Democrats, meanwhile, said it was a mistake to drop the gas tax and forfeit millions from out of state drivers. They said the bill falls far short of what's needed to fund Northern Virginia projects.

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