Shenandoah County GOP

The Road Less Traveled….

for the last few days, anyways.

Sorry for not being able to keep on top of the transportation session. But here’s what we’ve got:

*Governor Kaine’s plan is dead for the time being. The people of Virginia have dodged a major bullet here-however, it wasn’t long before the Senate Democrats decided to switch to a larger caliber. Here’s their plan:

  • Increase the general sales tax a quarter of a percent
  • Increase the sales tax on automobiles half a percent
  • and the grand finale–Increase the gas tax six cents over the next six years

Another part of the plan would reverse the hard won legislation for earlier this year that removed VDOT’s authority to impose tolls on I-81 without the General Assembly’s authority. In Thursday’s Northern Virginia Daily, State Senator Mark Obenshain took a particularly hard line on this part of the plan.

But Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, said he was concerned that one portion of the bill would return authority to impose tolls on Interstate 81 to the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

Legislators approved a measure earlier this year putting the valley’s major thoroughfare off-limits for tolls for any reason unless the General Assembly specifically agreed.

But Saslaw’s bill “seems to state the intent of the GA to give the CTB that authority to impose those tolls on Interstate 81 for additional lanes that are constructed,” Obenshain said, speaking from the floor of the Senate.

The House Rules Committee voted Friday to send this bill to the House for a full vote. Delegate Gilbert gave us a sneak peek of which way he’s leaning on the measure:

“What the Democrats did in the Senate today was, in my mind, unconscionable,” said Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock. “It was in complete disregard for the plight of working Virginians.

“To ask people at a time like this to pay more for gas demonstrates that Senate Democrats really have a tin ear about the everyday needs of their constituents,” Gilbert said.

A bright spot of the Committee’s action was to move forward a measure from Delegate Chris Saxman that would dedicate royalties and revenues from off-shore drilling off the Commonwealth’s coasts to transportation. According to SWAC Girl, that amount may be as much as $200 million over the next five decades. Bob Goodlatte, of course, has been championing this on the national level over the last few weeks. Even Newt Gingrich has been touting this through his group American Solutions, and as mentioned the potential of the Virginia bill:

Go here to sign Newt Gingrich’s petition.

And go here to sign the county party’s petition to say “no thanks” to the Senate Democratic plan. Be sure to contact Mark and Todd until the General Assembly goes back into session on July 9th. Their contact information can be found here.

H/T to Suzanne Curran of American Solutions.


Extra Innings
June 23, 2008, 3:00 pm
Filed under: General Assembly | Tags: , , ,

Area legislators are headed back to Richmond tomorrow in hopes of finally finding a solution to transportation funding. Last year’s package was hailed as a major breakthrough after several years of fighting in the legislature; however, things quickly unraveled once word got out about the fact that only state residents would be paying the abuser driver fees central to the package (though there was some exaggeration about the $3000 speeding ticket; that amount only applied to a particular set of circumstances). The plan further unraveled when the other key part, granting the Regional Transportation Authorities the power of taxation, was struckdown as unconstitutional this winter as the result of a lawsuit brought by Delegate Bob Marshall of Prince William (a victory that likely helped him build the coalition that nearly captured him the U.S. Senate Nomination).

So, a number of ideas are floating out there this time around, including a lock box for transportation funds and a plan that would divert all revenue from off-shore oil and gas drilling to state transportation coffers.  All the bills submitted so far can be viewed here or the Washington Post has a brief summary of each bill. Perhaps the plan that is drawing the most interest and protest, however, is the Governor’s, which calls for a $10 hike in vehicle registration fees,  a 1% hike on the sales tax for new cars and trucks, and regional taxes for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Garren Shipley of the Northern Virginia Daily offers some analysis here and a live-blog of the Governor’s speech (which occured at 1 p.m.).

There are already loud voices lining up against the Governor’s package, including Americans for Prosperity, which is leading down a coalition of local citizens to protest the plan today. At the State Convention AFP already had yard signs ready protesting the Governor, so expect them to take a lead amongst the various non-party groups opposing the package. The Republican Party of Virginia is standing united in both House of the General Assembly, in contrast to the Warner Tax Hike of 2004, with an email that went out this morning:

Legislature back in session. Beware!

This morning, members of the General Assembly are on their way to Richmond to convene in special session. Governor Tim Kaine summoned legislators to the Capitol to once again attempt to force a massive tax increase on hard working Virginia families in the name of increasing funding for transportation.

Of course, transportation is a top priority for many Virginians, but with the state budget increasing by nearly 50% in just the last 5 years; state spending at an all time high; and continued growth in state revenues, government doesn’t need more of your money.

Democrats, led by Kaine, are proposing billions in tax and “fee” increases, including hikes in the gas tax and sales taxes. At a time when working Virginians are facing skyrocketing gas prices, higher food prices, a collapsed housing market, job insecurity and a sluggish economy, now is exactly the wrong time to ask people to pay yet even more.

After all, it was just 4 years ago that Mark Warner broke his campaign promise and stuck Virginians with the largest tax increase in our long 400 year history.

Luckily, General Assembly Republicans are united in opposing these tax hikes. Republican Delegates and Senators are hard at work to constitutionally lock the transportation trust fund; dedicate existing revenues to transportation; implement more public-private partnerships to build and expand roads; and to enact comprehensive reform of VDOT, including auditing the agency and the prioritization of projects based on 21 Century metrics, like eliminating or reducing congestion.

Delegate Todd Gilbert has been determined since the start to keep taxes down, with the Daily News Record writing on Janurary 4th:

The Valley’s legislators oppose Kaine and the Republican-controlled Senate’s position that a new revenue stream must be found to pay for transportation needs. Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, and others interpret that position as a means of raising taxes.

“Transportation is one of the essential functions of government that we have to budget for and pay for,” Gilbert said.

The General Assembly remained deadlocked last year on transportation, even during a special session.

Gilbert, however, saw one silver lining from the standoff.

“I was pleased that we did not once again stick it to the Virginia taxpayer with another round of massive tax increases like we did a few years ago,” said Gilbert, who represents a portion of Rockingham County.

Meanwhile, State Senator Mark Obenshain has supported the lock box concept from the start:

Long-term revenues should come from existing sources, Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, said, and placed in the trust fund. Obenshain has, like House members, opposed raising taxes to pay for transportation needs.

Obenshain is also unwilling to start up new programs that take money away from transportation spending, where he hopes most of the projected surplus will be earmarked.

He also offered a prediction in this election year, when all 140 General Assembly seats are up for election.

“First things first,” Obenshain said. “If the governor diverts transportation money to new programs, like a statewide mandatory prekindergarten, it will make voters angry.”

Clearly, our area legislators will be fighting for the voices of ordinary citizens through the session, how ever long is should happen to last. However, you can make sure that they and Governor Kaine hear our voice by signing this e-petition on our website.