Our View: But is there any ‘give,’ anywhere?

Posted: February 16, 2013

So, is there any “give,” as they say, or any room for compromise? Mr. McDonnell suggested common ground could be found if conferees sought “greater reliance on sustainable revenue sources.” But if he continues to exclude the gas tax from that list of “sources,” we — not to mention Mrs. Vogel — see this suggestion falling on deaf (read, “Democratic”) ears in the divided Senate.

Meanwhile, Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, perhaps seeking traction for an independent gubernatorial bid this year, distanced himself further from Mr. McDonnell this week by sounding the clarion for compromise. Republicans, he said, should agree to an increase in the gas tax while Democrats should shed their reflexive unwillingness to devote more general-fund revenue to roads.

Also floating somewhere in the political ether, we understand, is a “revenue-neutral” proposal advanced by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy that would index the state income tax (effectively giving Virginians a tax cut) and raise the gas tax by a like amount. The theory is that keeping more money in the private sector would boost the state economy and, in the end, yield more money for roads.

Whether this outside proposal (all but ignored by senators at its unveiling Monday) or even Mr. Bolling’s inside-Capitol-Square compromise will be seriously entertained by conferees is questionable. Short of new ideas, the conversation, at least at the outset, will be decidedly strained.

Though it all, we continue to laud Mr. McDonnell’s persistence, if not his plan. His prescriptions, though bold, fall short on our scale of sound fiscal policy, veering as they do from the time-honored principle of “user pays,” whether said user hails from within Virginia or outside our borders. Furthermore, we continue to question whether a levy as volatile as the sales tax, or as regressive, should be a road-building bellwether.

At the same time, we’ve been sufficiently touched by realism to know an increase in the gas tax has little future among House conferees. So where, in truth, does Virginia go from here . . . on an issue so vital to preserving its reputation as business-friendly state? We’ll give Mrs. Vogel, who’s seen fly the slings and arrows of this contentious issue, a double-barreled last word.

“[M]aybe the desperation on all sides will make something happen,” she told us on Thursday.

And then, on Friday, this: “The bottom line is that a lot of people are going to have to swallow things they don’t like before we start to even get close on this.”