RICHMOND, Feb. 25 -- Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said he will crisscross Virginia starting this week for a "statewide discussion" about the Republican-backed transportation package to decide how it should be changed.
Kaine (D) is vowing to make "very significant changes" to the plan the General Assembly approved Saturday, saying it undermines state services and doesn't do enough to relieve traffic congestion throughout the state.
As approved by the House of Delegates and the Senate, residents in the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads areas would pay hundreds of millions of dollars each year to build more roads in those communities.
But most residents elsewhere would pay only an additional $10 -- through their vehicle registration fee -- for their share of the transportation package.
The lack of a statewide tax or fee increase means less money for new highway projects in more-rural parts of the state, which Kaine said undercuts his effort to fulfill his campaign pledge of enacting a long-term solution to the state's transportation needs.
"At all levels for rural parts of the state, there is very little money for them," Kaine said after the General Assembly adjourned Saturday night.
Kaine, who will start a five-day state tour Tuesday, is trying to regain the upper hand in the transportation debate, even as Republicans say they succeeded in wresting one of the governor's top priorities away from him.
"Republicans initiated and came together behind a comprehensive reform and funding plan," House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) said.
Despite objections from Kaine, Senate Democrats and some moderate Republicans, the General Assembly approved a transportation package that allows local governments in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads to raise certain fees and taxes for roads and transit in their regions. Statewide, the plan borrows $2.5 billion over the next eight years.
The debt will be repaid over 20 years with money from the general fund, which is used to pay for education, public safety, social programs and other services.
"My main concern is an excess of general-fund dollars to support massive borrowing," Kaine said. "I am going to talk to folks, and then I am going to make a proposal. . . . We will do it in a very public way."
Kaine has 30 days to decide whether he will try to amend the plan before sending it back to the General Assembly.
Aides said the governor probably won't push for an increase in the gas tax, which he tried unsuccessfully last year. But he might consider raising other fees so that less money is diverted from the general fund and more is available for highway and mass transit projects.
House Republicans will probably oppose efforts to raise additional taxes or fees.
"I am dealing with a very conservative caucus, and I literally had to beg for a $10 increase in vehicle registration, so there is no way on God's green earth that another extra fee is ever going to pass," Del. David B. Albo (R-Fairfax) said Sunday.
To get the bill approved, GOP leaders had to convince conservative legislators from rural parts of the state that their constituents wouldn't have to dig too deeply to solve traffic problems in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.
If signed into law, all Virginia motorists would see a $10 increase in vehicle registration fees. Bad drivers would face even higher fees as penalties for various driving violations.
But residents in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads would pay much more to improve roads and mass transit in those areas, if their local governments approve increases on such taxes as that on home sales.
In Alexandria and Prince William, Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties, local elected officials could vote to raise taxes on rental cars and hotel rooms. They would also have to decide whether to enact a "congestion relief fee" on home sales -- of 40 cents per $100 of assessed value. A commercial real estate tax, of 25 cents per $100 of assessed value, could also be imposed.
Also, Northern Virginians who apply for a driver's license would have to pay an additional $100 if the plan goes into law.
If all Northern Virginia local governments agree, an additional $400 million would be raised for their transportation projects.
But leaders there aren't sure whether they will vote to enact a plan.
"I think it is unlikely Prince William would adopt those regional taxes," said Corey A. Stewart (R-Occoquan), chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. "We are already building the roads the state failed to build."
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) said the bill is "a difficult pill to swallow."
"We will be expressing our concerns to the governor and try to make the legislation more acceptable and workable," he said.
Kaine said he would consider amending the bill so the General Assembly, and not local governments, would be responsible for voting on whether to raise taxes in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia.
Kaine will travel the state this week to talk about his efforts to preserve open space, boost economic development, enroll 4-year-olds in pre-kindergarten and enhance health care -- programs Democrats say are threatened by the GOP transportation plan.
"Ladies and gentleman, starting down that road using general-fund revenue to fix your roads is just like starting cocaine," Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said Saturday on the Senate floor. "Because once you start, you don't stop."
Republicans counter that the state needs to start making tough choices to rein in spending.
"I was elected to try to get the government under control and reform the 19th-century approach to higher taxes," said Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William).