McDonnell Open to Compromise on Transportation Funding

Speaking over the din of the Dulles Toll Road, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell made sure his message could be heard.

"The time for politics is over,” he said. “Now is the time for action."

McDonnell dropped into northern Virginia for the second time in recent weeks to try to rally support for his transportation funding plan that's been approved by the House of Delegates but rejected by Senate Democrats. The governor's focus Monday was the $300 million his plan would deliver to Phase 2 of the Silver Line Metro Project, money needed to offset rapidly escalating toll rates projected to reach $6.75 one way by 2019.

Tuesday the Senate Finance Committee considers the transportation bill approved by the House, a measure that would ditch the state's 17.5 cents gas tax but hike the state sales tax to 5.8 percent. McDonnell hopes Senate Democrats’ resistance lessened since a politically charged attempt to redraw their districts failed.

"I'm delighted about some of the positive comments from some of the Democratic senators in the last week about their willingness to move forward and get this done," McDonnell said.

He also opened the door to compromise on the details of his plan.

"This is the best proposal I could put in place and make economic sense," said McDonnell. "If some legislators are concerned about phasing [the gas tax] out and not getting rid of it completely and using some mix between sales and gas tax, that's fine."

McDonnell sent a letter last week to Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax County) and said he got an encouraging reply.

"He wrote back a very nice letter that was very positive about the need to get something done and that he believed this was the year and we had to right the right solutions," McDonnell said.

Meanwhile, local government leaders like Fairfax County Board Chairman Sharon Bulova wait to see if transportation funding is heading their way to help keep the Dulles Toll Road rates down and to jumpstart key projects.

"I'm starting to feel optimistic and starting to get some good vibes," Bulova said. "I don't think everything is over yet by any means, but there are definitely some behind the scene and in front of the scene positive discussions taking place, and I think that's a very good sign."

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