Grover Norquist has a little advice for Virginia legislators as they look around for ways to pay the commonwealth’s ever-growing transportation tab: If you want to honor your no-tax pledge, don’t link the gas tax to inflation.
“I write you today to express ATR’s opposition to any proposal to index the gas tax to inflation because simply, this proposal is a job-killing tax increase,” the president of Americans for Tax Reform says in a letter dated Monday. “For those members of the Virginia Legislature who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, voting to index the gas tax to inflation, without any complete offsets, would be in clear violation of the promise you made to your constituents and the people of Virginia to oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes.”
The letter comes at a time when Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) has hinted that he might be open to revamping the gas tax, noting recently that it was the only major state levy that does not rise with prices. (At the same time, McDonnell has stated that he would not support “broad-based tax increases in a down economy.”)
Virginia levies a flat 17 1/2 cents on each gallon of gas. With the state quickly running out of transportation revenue, a number of lawmakers have called for making the tax a percentage of the price of gasoline so state revenues go up when the price of gas does.
“The transportation woes Virginia faces are not because of the gas tax,” Norquist writes. “Richmond has spent too much money; in other words, it’s a spending problem not a revenue problem. If spending had been capped at the rate of inflation and population growth, Virginia would have spent $21.6 billion less between 1999 and 2009, saving more than enough to address Virginia’s transportation needs.
McDonnell said last week he will submit a transportation funding plan to the General Assembly that would generate at least $500 million a year in additional funding by 2018. Details have not been announced.
“The Governor appreciates all the input on this issue that he has been receiving from many interested groups and individuals,” McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said via e-mail. “At this time, he is continuing to put together his comprehensive transportation funding plan for the upcoming session.”