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Votes

Kaine, Others Unveil Transportation Plans

Gov. Tim Kaine (D) got a jump on the assembly session by introducing his plan to generate transportation funding.

Speaking before a crowd of businessmen in Herndon last week, Kaine unveiled a plan strikingly similar to the one defeated by Republicans in the House of Delegates last year.

Northern Virginia alone will need more than $700 million per year to fully fund its TransAction 2030 plan, a package of transportation proposals across the region, which was approved last year by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

KaineÕs proposal would increase a package of taxes and fees to generate about $1 billion across the state.

The provision, which would most directly affect Virginians is his proposal to increase vehicle registration fees by $15 next year and an additional $5 in 2010. This would generate $107.6 million next year and $148.8 million in 2010. There would be a corresponding increase on fees for heavy trucks.

The biggest generator of funds would be a 2 percent increase on the sales tax on cars, which he estimates could generate $360.7 million next year.

This provision is likely to face stiff opposition from the auto dealers, who have given at least $2.78 million in campaign contributions to candidates over the past decade, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

IN 2005, the Virginia Auto Dealers association also paid for four key lawmakers to attend its annual convention in the Bahamas: Sen. Martin Williams (R-Newport News) who heads the Senate Transportation Committee, Del. John Welch (R-Virginia Beach) who chairs a transportation subcommittee in the House of Delegates, Del. Brian Moran (D-Alexandria), the Democratic Caucus chair who holds a seat on the transportation committee and Del. Watkins Abbott (I-Appomatox), a senior member of the both the commerce and labor and the appropriations committees.

Kaine is pushing forward with the proposal, which failed last year, noting that the change will put Virginia on par with neighboring jurisdictions such as Maryland.

ÒWeÕre either serious about finding transportation funds or not,Ó he said. ÒWe canÕt be serious about transportation funding with a 3 percent sales tax on automobiles.Ó

Additionally, he would dedicate the existing tax on auto insurance to transportation, something which the state is technically supposed to be doing but doesnÕt.

Kaine would also impose an Òabuser fee,Ó a steep fine imposed on certain traffic violations.

Northern Virginia legislators are proposing plans of their own, as well.

SEN. JEANNEMARIE Devolites Davis (R-34) has a proposal, which would raise about $400 million per year in Northern Virginia. Her plan would allow local governments to increase a package of taxes and use the money those generate to fund transportation improvements. Governments which do not adopt the fee increases would not be eligible to receive funding.

Her plan would increase the grantorÕs tax, paid by home sellers, by 40 cents per $100 of the value of the house. She would also impose an additional fee on driverÕs licenses for people getting their license for the first time Ñ 16 and 17 year olds would be exempt Ñ and increase the sales tax by 0.5 percent.

Delegates Dave Albo (R-42) and Tom Rust (R-86) have also proposed a package of local tax and fee increases. They would also increase the grantors tax and driverÕs license fee. Additionally, they would increase hotel, meals and rental car taxes and impose a special tax on commercial properties.

Their plan is similar to one which they shopped around last year, in that it would fund local projects through local taxes, without cutting funds to other services.

Last year, however, after months of touting the all-local proposal, Albo changed the proposal during the special session.

He instead sought to take $800 million from existing state revenues. He later said he would have reduced that amount to $500 million.

At the time, he said he was attempting to craft a compromise position combining new taxes with the use of existing funds, in the hopes that it would be more palatable to the anti-tax elements of his party.

Devolites Davis said that these regional plans would be in addition to any statewide plans. The need in Northern Virginia is so great, she said, that both combined might still not be enough to fully fund the existing transportation plan.

ÒWhatever [additional funding] they do statewide is fine with us,Ó she said.