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Motor Fuels Tax Runs Out of Gas in Richmond

Bill would have raised revenue to construct or operate high-capacity transit systems.

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Del. David Englin (D-45)

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Englin on House Bill 1027

In Richmond, as in life, you win some and you lose some.

Such is the case with House Bill 1027, which Del. David Englin (D-45) introduced at the request of the Alexandria city government. The bill would have allowed two or more local governments that are constructing high-capacity transit systems to impose a local motor fuels tax at the rate of 2.1 percent of the wholesale price of fuels sold to retailers. The revenue would have gone to construct or operate high-capacity transit systems — but only if both of the local governments signed off on creating the new tax.

“The theory was that making it more difficult to impose the tax would make it more palatable to the anti-tax Republicans in the House,” said Englin. “As I predicted, it died a quick death.”

Englin said that he introduced the bill even though he was confident it was a dud because Northern Virginia badly needs transportation revenue. When the bill came before the House Finance Committee, members asked a few clarifying questions to underscore the intent of the bill was to raise taxes. Then they voted to pass it by indefinitely.

“The no-tax-pledge crowd doesn’t like to empower other people to raise taxes any more than they like to raise taxes themselves,” said Englin. “I was upfront with the city about the chances this would have, but you do these things because it’s important to keep the conversation going.”