Analysis: Transportation solution will yet again evade us

roads-newThe House and State Senate have passed very different transportation funding plans, meaning the two plans will now head to a conference committee to try to iron out those differences.

It’s hard to imagine that they can in any way, shape or form that will result in a bill that can then pass both chambers.

“We have moved a long way from our original position and made very significant moves toward the governor’s plan. We’ve given them general fund money, sales tax money and online tax revenue they say is essential to any bill they can support. Senate Democrats have compromised. Now, it’s time for those on the other side of the aisle to come towards us,” Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said.

The House bill is closer to the proposal floated by Gov. Bob McDonnell that killed the gas tax and replaced the revenues created by the gas tax and also added new revenues through an increase in the state sales tax. The Senate went the route that members on both sides of the aisle had been saying since before the session they would support, pushing an increase in the gas tax as the primary means for providing new revenues.

There seems to be little in the way of wiggle room between the two sides. Senate Democrats, certainly, are not going to break on the gas tax, making it so that Senate Republicans would have to vote en masse to force a tiebreaking vote from Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling. Thing is, the Senate budget passed by a 26-14 margin, so we’re not talking about one or two defections from the Senate GOP Caucus, but several.

Logically, then, we’d see the gas tax at least survive in the conference committee, if not see also a slight increase in the gas tax. But then you’re pushing the buttons of the House GOP Caucus, which has a much more strident conservative philosophical base than does the Senate GOP Caucus.

The House GOP members of the conference committee aren’t likely to allow any form of gas tax in the compromise bill. That bill is just as unlikely to gain any traction in the Senate.

Bob McDonnell goes down in history as yet another Virginia governor unable to figure out a way to get the General Assembly to move on providing more funding for transportation maintenance, construction and modernization.

Column by Chris Graham

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