The push for an increase in Virginia's gasoline tax was dealt a setback today when a House subcommittee voted to kill a proposed 3-cents-per-gallon increase at the pump.
Gov. Charles Robb has said an increase in the current 11-cents-per-gallon tax is needed to fund essential highway and transportation programs. Although the Senate last week passed a percentage tax at the wholesale level, resistance to tax increases in the House of Delegates, where members are running for reelection, is expected to be strong.
Today's vote may yet be reversed by the full Finance Committee which meets Monday to consider the recommendations from the five-member subcommittee. Opposition today came from a variety of quarters, including Northern Virginia delegates who complained that the bill does not earmark enough funds for the region's mass transit and highway needs.
The subcommittee today rejected an amendment by Del. Warren Stambaugh (D-Arlington) to pledge 1 cent of the proposed 3-cent increase toward mass transit statewide.
A compromise, proposed by Del. Archibald Campbell (D-Wythe), chairman of the Finance Committee and sponsor of the gas tax bill, was soundly rejected by Stambaugh as unfair to Northern Virginia.
That compromise would allow Northern Virginia to use revenues it would collect locally from the 3 cents per gallon increase for mass transit needs. But it would bar the region from any further funds generated by the the increase.
"This is totally unacceptable," said Stambaugh., "Our chairman is trying to force the entire burden of paying for Metro on Northern Virginia and foreclosing us from any revenue for our roads."
Stambaugh said the four Northern Virginia delegates on the Finance Committee will oppose any gas tax increase unless the committee moves to recognize Metro and other mass transit needs as a state responsibility.
The Campbell bill is the House of Delegates' answer to the Senate bill which faces strong opposition from oil and trucking lobbies. That version levies a 3 percent tax on wholesale gasoline sales, a method which its sponsors claim would give Virginia a more flexible source of highway revenues.
The House Finance subcommittee today not only voted against any gas tax increase, but it also knocked out a 1-cent increase in the current 2-cents-per-gallon surcharge paid by truckers.
The package recommended by the subcommittee would raise $51 million in assorted license and registration fees on cars and trucks, compared to the $162.1 million that would have been generated by the Campbell bill as originally introduced.