Kaine Pushes Tax Package For Transportation Funds

By Eric M. Weiss and Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, June 20, 2008

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and several Democratic lawmakers yesterday urged Republicans to get behind the governor's proposal to raise taxes by $1 billion to build more roads and maintain the state's aging transportation infrastructure.

Kaine spoke just hours after the Commonwealth Transportation Board voted to approve a six-year spending plan that cuts hundreds of projects statewide and transfers $2.75 billion from new projects to the state's near-empty maintenance fund.

State transportation officials slashed more than $1.7 billion worth of planned and newly proposed Northern Virginia road projects, saying that there was no money to pay for them. The board also delayed an additional $398 million worth of projects.

In Northern Virginia, the six-year plan's biggest cuts include $380 million to widen Interstate 95 from six to eight lanes in Prince William County, $200 million to widen Route 7 from four to six lanes in Fairfax County and $68 million to widen Belmont Ridge Road in Loudoun County.

Officials said the cuts were necessary because of shortfalls in projected tax revenue, a slowing economy and increasing maintenance costs.

Kaine has called a special session for Monday to try to get the General Assembly to agree on a plan that would increase funding for transportation and eventually restore some of the projects killed yesterday.

"No state, no nation can be a nation in advance with a degrading infrastructure," Kaine said yesterday at a Richmond news conference. "That is why we are standing here today. Virginia, with so many things going right, has nevertheless allowed a transportation infrastructure challenge to worsen and fester, and it is not going away; it's not going to get any easier."

Kaine's plan includes a 1 percent increase in the sales tax in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads; food and medicine would be exempt. He also proposed a statewide 1 percent increase in the sales tax on automobiles, which would be phased in over a year, starting in January, and a $10 increase in annual vehicle registration fees.

To raise more money for public transportation, Kaine proposed a statewide 25-cent increase in the grantors tax -- paid by people who sell their homes -- which is now 10 cents per $100 of assessed value.

"Adult leadership means taking adult responsibility to solve challenges," Kaine said.

Although several House and Senate Democratic leaders stood alongside Kaine yesterday, the outlook for passage of his proposal appears bleak.

Republicans who control the House of Delegates said they would act quickly to defeat a statewide tax increase, perhaps as early as Monday or Tuesday, when the Finance Committee is scheduled to review it.

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