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Column: Transportation Agreement and Medicaid Expansion

The Virginia State Senate passed a transportation plan after Gov. Robert McDonnell agreed to sign off on a Medicaid expansion conference committee to come up “with a concept to ensure that significant reforms are attained prior to any potential expansion of Medicaid.” The committee will be made up of five members of the House of Delegates who serve on the House Appropriations Committee and five members of the Senate Finance Committee as well as the Secretaries of Finance and Health and Human Resources. At least three members of the House and three of the Senate members on the Committee must vote to approve the recommendations. The two secretaries will be ex-officio, non-voting members. Medicaid expansion would provide for more than 400,000 Virginians to have health care and provide some 30,000 jobs.

Additional statewide funding for transportation will include:

  • Converting cents per gallon at the pump on gasoline and diesel (doing away with the present gas tax)

  • Adding 3.5 percent on the wholesale price of gasoline (will add about 10 cents a gallon to the price of gas)

  • Adding 6 percent on the wholesale price of diesel

  • Increasing alternative fuel vehicle registration fee to $100

  • Maintaining 1 percent exemption on motor vehicle sales, phasing into 4.3 percent over next 5 years

  • Increasing general sales tax 0.3 percent.

A number of senators approved the transportation plan only after Governor McDonnell agreed to the conference committee on Medicaid. Although I had hoped we could do better on the transportation funding plan, this is a step in the right direction and likely as much as we could pass at this time.

I am pleased that the Route One Transit Study I introduced is being funded. Director of Rail and Public Transportation Thelma Drake and her department will be proceeding with this study immediately.

One of the bills I introduced this session, SB829, provides for the Department of Veterans Services to develop programs to reduce unemployment among veterans. This passed both houses of the General Assembly and will assist businesses to attract, hire, train and retain veterans. It is called V3, Virginia Values Veterans Plan. The Governor has indicated that he will sign it.

This was a busy Session of the General Assembly. We will return for a brief “veto session” in early April.

Please continue to contact me with concerns, questions and if I may be of service to you in any way with state government issues.