Compromise in Doubt For Va. Roads Funding
Monday, June 2, 2008
RICHMOND -- Three weeks before the General Assembly returns for a special session on transportation, many legislators say they have little or no hope of reaching an accord on how to fund road and transit projects.
The funding impasse stems from stark, philosophical rifts between the House and Senate, between Republicans and Democrats and within chambers and parties. The issue also divides regions.
Even legislators who would like to cut a deal wonder how they can overcome such steep challenges when they convene in Richmond on June 23 for the session called by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D).
"I haven't heard much consensus. Everybody's got a different view," Sen. John C. Watkins (R-Chesterfield) said. "I don't think anyone has put something out there that solves the problem."
Even Kaine acknowledged the General Assembly could leave empty-handed. "I don't know whether we will get a solution or not," he said.
Legislators have engaged in one-on-one discussions in person and by telephone since March, but leaders of the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and Democrat-controlled Senate say there has been no movement toward compromise.
Del. David B. Albo (R-Fairfax), who has sought for weeks to broker a deal, called the chance of reaching an agreement "extraordinarily bleak."
In May, Kaine proposed raising $1.1 billion a year by increasing taxes statewide on car and home sales and vehicle registration fees. His plan includes a 1 cent sales tax increase in the state's most congested areas, Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.
Democrats and some Senate Republicans want to boost taxes statewide, but they disagree on whether to increase the gas tax, sales tax or other revenue sources.
House Republican leaders oppose a statewide tax increase and announced last week that they want to encourage public-private partnerships, in which companies would pay for some projects on roads and bridges in return for the right to collect tolls.
"It would be exceedingly helpful if we were able to count on some participation at the private level," said Del. Joe T. May (R-Loudoun), chairman of the House Transportation Committee. "Otherwise it appears we are going to have to raise all of it ourselves . . . and that makes our task all that more difficult."
Kaine said if the General Assembly fails to pass a plan, he will tell voters House Republicans stood in the way.