McAuliffe, Bolling urge support of Va. transportation funding compromise

The likely candidates in Virginia’s gubernatorial contest are weighing in on the compromise reached in the General Assembly on transportation that now appears headed for a final vote.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling — who is exploring an independent bid for governor — are both urging support of the plan, but Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the likely GOP nominee, held off on backing the plan.

Lawmakers announced Wednesday that they have hammered out a compromise to the transportation package proposed by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) at the beginning of this year’s General Assembly as central to his legislative agenda. The compromise version would replace the current gas tax with a wholesale gas tax, tap less general fund revenue and add a regional funding component for Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia.

The measure is expected to come up for a vote in the final days of the legislative session, which is scheduled to conclude on Saturday. Matthew Moran, a spokesman for Speaker William J. Howell (R), said the House will not vote on the compromise during Thursday’s session.

In a statement, Cuccinelli said he has not yet seen the final conference report.

“In these tough economic times, I do not believe Virginia’s middle class families can afford massive tax increases, and I cannot support legislation that would ask the taxpayers to shoulder an even heavier burden than they are already carrying,” the statement reads. “I believe that every member of the General Assembly should have the opportunity to thoroughly review this new legislation ... and determine if this proposed legislation will actually resolve our serious transportation problems before it is brought to the floor for a vote.”

McAuliffe said he was concerned about the use of general funds to pay for transportation and the potential impact on education, health care or public safety, but that inaction was not an option.

“This proposal is not perfect but ...Virginia simply cannot afford to miss this opportunity to make substantial progress on transportation,” McAuliffe said in a statement.

Bolling said in a statement that the compromise “is a deal that generates real money for transportation and it will finally solve our long term transportation funding needs” and urged support for the proposal in both chambers.

“Now is the time for action,” Bolling said. “This is an important issue that affects the economic viability and quality of life of our state and its citizens, and it must be solved. We cannot let this historic opportunity escape us.”

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