Revenue plan gets mixed reviews
Posted: January 9, 2013
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — At least one representative from the Winchester area supports Gov. Bob McDonnell’s plan to overhaul the way the state pays for its transportation infrastructure.
Del. Joe May, R-Leesburg, said Tuesday that he would support McDonnell’s proposal that includes replacing the 17.5-cent state gasoline tax with a 0.8 percentage point sales tax increase intended to help raise $3.1 billion over five years.
May said the proposal has a chance to raise a considerable amount of funding for necessary transportation funding, but he cautioned that there will likely be a lot of negotiating during the 30-day General Assembly session that begins today.
May is leery about one portion of McDonnell’s proposal — increasing the portion of the nickel-on-the-dollar sales tax that goes to transportation from a half cent to three-quarters of a cent.
It’s the one “bad news” aspect about the proposal, said May, whose district includes the northern half of Clarke County and the northeastern portion of Frederick County.
“But it’s a pretty modest amount,” he said. “If it is diverted, it wouldn’t be so painful for other areas.”
The nonprofit, nonpartisan Tax Foundation panned McDonnell’s proposal Tuesday, calling it a “smoke and mirrors” plan that could raise less than half of what the governor claims.
Using more sales tax funds instead of user-related taxes and fees is a mistake, Tax Foundation economist Scott Drenkard wrote in an email.
With tolls and gas taxes, the people who use the roads pay for them, but with general revenue the roads seem “free,” and are used more.
“Theory and past experience suggest McDonnell’s plan will result in further congestion and continual underfunding of transportation in Virginia,” Drenkard wrote.
Other lawmakers representing the Winchester area couldn’t be reached for comment. But in a recent interview, Del. Beverly Sherwood, R-Frederick County, said she wasn’t likely to support any proposal that raises taxes.
“I’m not a person that likes to raise taxes,” she said.
At the Dec. 4 Top of Virginia Chamber’s Pre-Session Briefing, Del. Randy Minchew, R-Leesburg, said the lack of transportation funding is beginning to hurt Virginia’s business ranking, and mentioned a tax on miles driven as one way to generate more funds.
Minchew —whose district includes the southern half of Clarke County and a chunk of Frederick County to the east of Winchester — indicated he was open to all suggestions.
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