On January 8, Governor Bob McDonnell announced a plan that would provide more than $3.1 billion in transportation funding for the Commonwealth over the next 5 years, tying transportation funding to economic growth and replacing the state's outdated gas tax revenue model with a 0.8 percent increase in the state's sales tax dedicated to transportation. The proposal would make Virginia the first state in the nation to eliminate the state tax on gasoline, allocates additional general funds to transportation, capitalizes on revenues being lost on out-of-state sales, and creates a long-term revenue system to fund Virginia's highway, rail and transit needs. Virginia's current transportation maintenance funding shortfall means that in FY 2013 $364 million must be transferred from the state's construction account to pay for road maintenance. That transfer amount is anticipated to grow to $500 million by FY 2019 unless new funding is provided. In short, Virginia has to use money meant for construction for paving and potholes. The governor's plan fixes the problem by generating $844 million in new funding per year for transportation by FY 2018, eliminating the state maintenance crossover and contributing to construction, rail, transit and other priorities. By eliminating crossover and with proposed revenue growth, this plan provides an additional $1.8 billion for highway construction over the next 5 years.
Following Governor Bob McDonnell’s announcement, Jack Hornbeck, CCE, President & CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, said, “Current levels of congestion outside and within our region have placed business growth, tourism, port growth and our military facilities at risk. The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce applauds Governor McDonnell’s leadership in offering legislation that from our perspective will address what has been the Chamber’s top legislative priority for many years. The tenets of the proposed legislation appear to be aligned with our funding principles, which are: 1) broad-based, long-term, and efficient to collect, 2) sourced from all ultimate consumers including those in-state, out-of-state, wholesalers, retailers, and users of products and services moved over the transportation grid, 3) designed to encourage smart transportation grid use and development, 4) enable everyone to pay their fair share. We look forward to working with Governor McDonnell and members of both parties in the House and Senate as this legislation is considered during the 2013 session of the Virginia General Assembly. This is an important first step to fund the long-term transportation needs of Hampton Roads.”
"Transportation is a core function of government. Children can't get to school; parents waste too much time in traffic; and businesses can't move their goods without an adequate and efficient transportation system," Governor McDonnell said. "My 2013 transportation funding and reform package is intended to address the short and long-term transportation funding needs of the Commonwealth. Declining funds for infrastructure maintenance, stagnant motor fuels tax revenues, increased demand for transit and passenger rail, and the growing cost of major infrastructure projects necessitate enhancing and restructuring the Commonwealth's transportation program and the way it is funded. We simply cannot continue to do what we have always done and expect this problem to go away. The gas tax is a stagnant revenue source, and no changes to it will provide a reliable growth mechanism for transportation in the state. In short, if we stick to the same old means of funding transportation, we will find ourselves having the same debates and facing the same revenue shortfalls over and over again as inflation slowly eats away at the gas tax, cars get better mileage to meet CAFÉ standards and more alternative fuel vehicles hit the streets. Market forces clearly dictate that we have to change how we fund transportation. This is a math problem. The current revenues numbers do not add up to a safe, efficient and sustainable transportation network. The time is now for an innovative and sustainable plan to meet our transportation needs and grow Virginia's economy."
The governor's 2013 Transportation Plan proposes to make these fundamental changes:
While the governor's plan will eliminate the Virginia gasoline tax, the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents will remain and with more alternative fuel vehicles on the road, the less of a share Virginia will get of those federal gas tax revenues. Therefore, the governor's plan proposes an additional $100 fee for alternative fuel vehicles to ensure that these drivers continue to contribute something to Virginia's transportation networks, which they use every day. The revenues generated by this fee will be dedicated to the Commonwealth Mass Transit Fund to help fund the growing demand for transit and reduce congestion. Legislation passed during the 2012 session already required a fee for electric vehicles, and this measure applies the increased fee to all alternative fuel vehicles.
In conversations with Congressional leaders, it is likely that this bill passes in congress. The bill has support from the National Governor's Association and both online and bricks-and-mortar retailers.
"Over the course of the next five years, this innovative plan proposed by Governor McDonnell will generate more than $3.1 billion in additional funding to be invested in the Commonwealth's transportation network," said Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton. "This will be the single largest increase in dedicated funding for transportation in a generation, and will provide a true long-term sustainable and equitable solution to fund today's transportation needs and to meet the future demands for a safe, efficient and economically viable transportation network. It will also end the unsustainable transfer of our funding for new transportation construction projects just to pay for maintenance. This crossover has taken more than $3.3 billion from construction projects to address maintenance deficits since 2002."