Va. House Committee Kills Kaine Road Plan

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) accused House Republicans of politicking in killing his proposal to aid transportation.
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) accused House Republicans of politicking in killing his proposal to aid transportation. (By Eva Russo -- Associated Press)
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By Anita Kumar and Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, June 27, 2008

RICHMOND, June 26 -- A proposal by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine to raise $1.1 billion a year in taxes and fees for statewide transportation was killed Thursday by a House committee, which advanced a plan to collect money for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

After a meeting that included partisan bickering and testy exchanges, the House Rules Committee agreed to allow a floor vote on a Senate bill that would raise the state's gasoline tax. Both parties agreed, however, that the gas tax bill would be defeated. Some legislators said the floor vote was a political move to force House Democrats to vote for a tax increase.

The actions by the Rules Committee are likely to continue the standoff between the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and the Democrat-controlled Senate after the General Assembly returns to Richmond on July 9 to resume its special session on transportation issues.

After four days and no resolution in sight, the session has cost more than $60,000. The two chambers, with their stark philosophical differences, have vowed to kill each others' bills.

"We're back at square one," said Sen. Ken Cuccinelli II (R-Fairfax). "This is a significant waste of time and money."

Kaine (D) accused House Republicans of killing his bill for political reasons and not giving it a fair hearing. "It is like 'Green Eggs and Ham,' " he said. "However I do it, they are going to find a reason to say it's deficient."

The General Assembly passed a landmark package last year to add $1.1 billion annually for transportation needs across Virginia. Regional authorities were set to collect $400 million a year in Northern Virginia and $200 million in Hampton Roads, but the state Supreme Court ruled that the authorities could not constitutionally levy taxes and fees because they are not elected bodies.

On Thursday, House Republican leaders fast-tracked a bill to salvage the regional plans by providing millions of dollars in state-imposed and locally enacted taxes into Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, but in vastly different ways.

The Northern Virginia proposal, which would bring in $156 million in new revenue a year, includes a $100 license fee for new adult drivers, an increase in the tax on home sales of 40 cents per $100 of assessed value, and a 2 percent tax increase on rental cars and hotel rooms.

Some parts of last year's regional plan in Northern Virginia remain intact, including a commercial real estate tax that would bring in an additional $208 million.

"This compromise in my opinion is the only thing that at the end of the day is going to bring Northern Virginia any money," said Del. David B. Albo (R-Fairfax). "This is the best I can get."

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) called the bill "a slap in the face to Northern Virginia" because part of the Hampton Roads proposal will be subsidized by taxpayers across the state.

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