Va. GOPcould back tax hike to help boost transportation
Posted: December 5, 2012
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — A Republican-backed tax hike could be on the agenda for the General Assembly session beginning in January.
The state is nearly running out of money to pay for transportation needs, and two local delegates said Tuesday at the Top of Virginia Chamber’s Pre-Session Briefing that finding additional revenue is critical.
That money could come from Virginians paying more at the gas pump, Dels. Joe May and Randy Minchew, both Leesburg Republicans, told 45 members of the business community at the Holiday Inn Historic Gateway on Front Royal Pike (U.S. 522).
Minchew 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. That way, revenue wouldn’t decline as vehicles’ mileage per gallon continues to increase.
May said he supports a plan that would raise gas taxes by eliminating an exemption for gasoline from the 5 percent state sales tax.
“I know it’s not popular,” he said. “But if we don’t have [more funds] we won’t be able to maintain roads or build new ones.”
Virginia’s tax — 17.5 cents per gallon — which hasn’t changed since 1986 — would remain in place.
With gas at $3.29 per gallon, a 5 percent sales tax would currently result in an increase of about 16 cents per gallon, raising the state’s tax share to 33.5 cents per gallon.
The plan drew opposition from Robert W. Claytor, president of Winchester-based H.N. Funkhouser & Co., a distributor of motor oil and fuel.
Although he agrees with the need for more revenue, he thinks raising the per-gallon tax is a better way to go.
Under the sales tax plan, he said, it would be too difficult to forecast gas prices and therefore revenue. The sales tax would also hit drivers harder as gas prices rise, Claytor added.
Vehicles that use natural gas, propane or electricity should also be taxed, May and Minchew said.
Del. Beverly Sherwood, R-Frederick County, did not comment on the gas tax issue at the meeting and did not return a request for comment after the briefing session.
The potential increase in the gas tax could be hot topic once the General Assembly convenes on Jan. 9, since other state Republicans — who have traditionally opposed increasing the tax — begin to consider options to generate additional transportation revenue.
Time is growing short, with the state projected to run out of funding by the end of next year, May said.
The Associated Press contributed some information for this report.
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