McDonnell will try again on transportation funding

March 12, 2012

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell says he isn’t done searching for a way to fund roads. (Cliff Owen/Associated Press)

McDonnell said there’s still a chance legislators will put some money in the state’s budget when they return later this month to finish the two-year spending plan. But regardless, he said, he plans to have additional proposals next year.

“Every year we have made some progress on transportation,” he said. “This is certainly not the end. It’s ongoing.”

The House had largely endorsed McDonnell’s modest plan of diverting a portion of the sale tax — about $100 million from core services such as education and public safety — to transportation. The Senate had pushed a proposal that would raise the gasoline tax at the rate of inflation.

Late Saturday, negotiators scrapped both plans and left in some small changes, including selling the naming rights to roads and bridges, which McDonnell’s administration estimates could bring in $5 million to $20 million annually

“I think people will be surprised on the naming rights . . . about how much that might be able to generate,” he said.

McDonnell has made transportation funding one of his top priorities this year, along with pension reform and higher-education funding. Last year, the General Assembly signed off on McDonnell’s plan to borrow nearly $3 billion for construction over three years — the largest infusion of funds into the cash-strapped transportation coffers in more than two decades.

But this year, some legislators in both parties said they had serious reservations about whether McDonnell’s new plan, which was estimated to bring in at least $115 million, would provide enough money for maintenance and whether it would amount only to a short-term solution to a perpetual problem.

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