The Washington Post

Virginia Democrats ask McDonnell to oppose GOP transportation bill

Updated 6:35 p.m.

Virginia Democrats are asking Gov. Robert McDonnell to weigh in against a controversial federal transportation bill written by his fellow Republicans.

Reps. Gerald Connolly, James P. Moran Jr. and Robert C. Scott wrote to McDonnell Wednesday to argue that the massive highway measure “would have near catastrophic consequences” for Virginia, as the state ”stands to lose $361 million in federal highway funding, tens of millions of dollars in federal mass transit support, and millions more in federal congestion mitigation and air quality (CMAQ) funding.”

They also complained that the bill “will eliminate the dedicated funding for mass transit systems like the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority,” shifting money currently devoted to mass transit to highway projects.

The $260 billion transportation measure had been scheduled for a vote in the House this week but has now been punted until after next week’s recess, as Republican leaders scramble to shore up support for the bill in their own ranks.

The bill would be partially funded by opening more territory up for oil exploration, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as well as the Virginia coast. The latter proposal has split state officials, with most Republicans and some Democrats in favor, while Connolly, Moran and Scott reiterated Wednesday that they were opposed.

McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin did not say whether the governor had a specific position on the House bill, noting that “the House and Senate have completely different transportation bills that are under debate in the respective chambers. There are also hundreds of amendments pending.

“We encourage Virginia’s delegation to focus on the bills currently under consideration and to protect Virginia’s interests. In particular, since Virginia is a donor state, in that it pays more federal transportation taxes than it receives, the Congressmen should specifically work to address this inequity.”

Martin also pointed out that the budget blueprint releases by the Obama administration this week would cut federal funding for Metro by $15 million, “and yet we have not heard a word out of the Congressmen.”

But Connolly did actually speak out on the subject, telling the Washington Examiner that Obama’s proposed Metro cut was “penny-wise and pound-foolish.”

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