But the Senate refused to go along. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling — unable to break a tie in a bill involving revenue — gaveled the day’s nearly eight-hour session to a close after a heated partisan debate.
“The bottom line is, today we have done nothing on transportation,” Republican Senate leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (James City) said after a final attempt at compromise was voted down.
The Senate then moved to send the bill to the Finance Committee, effectively killing its version and raising doubts about the prospects for the measure on its way over from the House. The House-approved bill is now the only surviving version of the governor’s package, and the Senate could amend or kill it.
“I’m very disappointed,” McDonnell said in telephone interview Tuesday night. “I think the Democrats have a lot of answering to do tonight. They’re going to have to tell us what they’re willing to do. This is a party that says no to everything but higher taxes. I think the Democrats are way out of touch and they need to start being reasonable.”
House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) expressed disappointment but remained optimistic that a version of the package could still emerge, his spokesman said.
Several Democrats said they objected to the plan on its merits — though their inclination to give the governor’s proposal fair consideration was not helped by the GOP’s stealth maneuver to rewrite the state’s election map.
But even in the House, where McDonnell’s party holds a commanding majority, his transportation plan had a rocky go. Delegates on both sides of the aisle said they disliked elements of the package.
The House added language to prevent the state from setting up tolls on Interstate 95 — the governor has discussed adding tolls in the past, though he did not include tolls in his plan. The House also eliminated McDonnell’s proposed $100 fee on new hybrid cars and allowed for regional transportation projects. What was left would bring in about $52 million less than McDonnell’s bill over five years. The governor’s plan also counts on receiving tax revenue from Internet sales, but that would rely on federal legislation that has been stalled in Congress for several years.
But proponents said the governor’s plan, sponsored by Howell, offered a possible breakthrough, even if it were less than a perfect one.