Virginia's Senate Finance Committee voted today to approve creation of a special commission on highway funding, a key proposal in Gov. Gerald L. Baliles' plan to radically change the way the state pays for its roads.
The action came despite a veiled threat last week by Sen. Edward E. Willey (D-Richmond), the powerful committee chairman, to hold the bill hostage until Baliles publicly backed three controversial highway tax and fee proposals sought by Willey.
A public hearing is scheduled Wednesday on the Willey measures, but Baliles today declined to say whether he would support them.
Willey said today he would refer the tax bills to subcommittees for further study rather than push the committee to act on them, an indication that the Baliles' administration has requested more time to review them.
Baliles declined to characterize the committee's action as a legislative victory and said the administration is continuing to hold talks with Willey's staff.
Willey's tax proposals include a one-half of 1 percent increase in titling fees that would raise about $40 million a year, tag and title transfer fees that would raise about $7 million a year, and a controversial measure to repeal the tax credit on ethanol-enhanced gasoline that would raise about $30 million a year.