We knew there would be some nutty proposals in the Virginia legislature this year, and some serious attempts to fix transportation funding, but Gov. Bob McDonnell managed to stun everyone yesterday with a real doozy: eliminate the gas tax entirely. Seriously.
Virginia sorely needs money for transportation. While McDonnell is borrowing $3 billion from the future to fund a few mega-road projects (many also unnecessary and wasteful), there isn’t enough money to keep maintaining existing roads and bridges, or fund eight-car trains on Metro to relieve Rush Plus overcrowding, or build light-rail Northern Virginia needs.
Virginia’s gas tax is also one of the lowest in the nation. It brings in less money per gallon of gas, adjusted for inflation, than anytime in history, and is less than half in real dollars what it was in 1933. That’s why a lot of Virginia legislators are calling for real action on transportation this year.
Even a few Republicans are possibly interested in finding a tortured path around their promises not to ever raise taxes, like Del. Dave Albo’s not-entirely-insane idea to raise the gas tax but give Virginia residents an income tax break to offset it.
Jim Titus suggested Virginia consider a variant of a proposal Maryland debated last year, to extend some or all of the sales tax to gasoline instead of raising the gas tax. Gas is exempt from the sales tax, which means that while the gas tax raises some revenue, the state’s general fund loses the revenue that would have come from taxing the sale of that gas just like it taxes housewares or computers or anything else.
McDonnell’s plan takes the opposite tack. He would eliminate the gas tax entirely but also keep exempting gas from the sales tax. He said, “That’s right, no more gas tax at the pump. No sales tax at the pump either.”
The state would then collect no money at all on people buying gas, even though it collects money from people buying most anything else. It even has a sales tax on groceries, unlike D.C. and Maryland. This means you would pay something for buying grapes and ginger but not gasoline.
[Continue reading David Alpert’s post at Greater Greater Washington.]
David Alpert is founder and editor of Greater Greater Washington. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.