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Critics of Kaine roads plan coming out of woodwork

Item by Chris Graham

Perhaps Bob McDonnell missed something.

“While I have worked closely and in agreement with the governor on many important reforms for our citizens, I cannot support the governor’s tax and spend philosophy as outlined in his transportation plan,” the presumptive 2009 Republican Party gubernatorial nominee said in a statement released today addressing the transportation plan outlined by Gov. Tim Kaine.

Republican leaders had been talking up their suspicions that the Democratic governor was about to unleash a 10-cent gas-tax hike on the Commonwealth as his primary means of raising revenues for maintenance needs for days. Kaine did not include a gas-tax increase in his plan today, instead proposing an increase the existing motor-vehicle sales tax from 3 percent to 4 percent and an increase the statewide vehicle-registration fee by $10 annually.

The plan also includes a 1 percent increase in local sales taxes in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads and a 25-cent increase in the statewide grantor’s tax.

The money, estimated to total a billion dollars annually by 2012, would replace revenues lost in last year’s Republican-sponsored transportation compromise that included regional transportation authorities that were later shot down by the Virginia Supreme Court and abusive-driver fees that were taken to the woodshed by residents and finally by state legislators earlier this year.

McDonnell indicated today that he feels that the $560 million in annual spending approved by the General Assembly this year should be enough to take care of transportation needs and took the governor to task for not giving more credence to public-private partnerships that could stretch the ability of the state government and state taxpayers to meet additional needs in the future.

“I’m confident that a bipartisan resolution of these transportation issues can be resolved by the General Assembly and the Governor in this special session. With the dramatic new statewide funding provided for transportation by the General Assembly last year, I hope the focus of this special session will be on addressing the demonstrated specific regional needs in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. There is no justification for a statewide tax increase,” McDonnell said.

Another criticism came in the form of comments from an unlikely source, Virginia Organizing Project chair Jay Johnson. Johnson at once praised Kaine for his course of “action over inaction” regarding transportation, then took a shot across the bow at the regional sales taxes proposed in his funding plan.

“Any increase in a sales tax, even only for specified regions of the Commonwealth, really hurts low-income families in those areas,” Johnson said.

“The Virginia Organizing Project is disappointed that the actions announced by the governor do not include our recommended use of an income-tax surcharge as well as revenue or general-obligation bonds, more progressive approaches that would raise the necessary funds in a more economically sound and equitable manner. We think this would be fairer to low-income Virginians,” Johnson said.

augusta free press
augusta free press