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Kaine hopeful for roads fix

Story by Chris Graham

When Gov. Tim Kaine first made the call for a June 23 special session on transportation last month, he thought there was “about a 50-50 chance” that lawmakers would be able to get something done in terms of coming up with additional monies to go toward maintenance and new road projects.

“That’s just being a realist,” Kaine told me today in Staunton. “The legislature wrestled with it in 2000, ’02, ’04, ’06, ’07, and now ’08. Six times. It’s been tough, but I think the legislature has a lot to prove. They took a step forward last year and finally said, Let’s do this, and they came up with a bill. Unfortunately, much of it has either been repealed or struck down. But look, they were willing to do something last year, so they should be willing to vote to do something now.”

Listen to AFP editor Chris Graham’s interview with Gov. Kaine.

But should be and shall are two entirely different concepts, and the writing seems to be very much on the wall with respect to making the shall a reality. Even legislative Democrats have been breaking with the governor on the roads plan that he unveiled last month that includes an increase in the existing motor-vehicle sales tax from 3 percent to 4 percent and increases 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.

Kaine has been traveling across the Commonwealth since the release of the plan to try to build support among the general public that can translate to political pressure on lawmakers who have proven otherwise wary to do anything substantive to address the state’s transportation needs for going on a decade now.

“The reaction (from the general public) has been very positive. Governor, we need to do something,” Kaine said. “People kind of like my plan, but not everybody says do it just the way you said. But they all say we need a sizable fix to maintain our roads statewide, and at least for the congested regions of the state, they need some ability to raise and keep their own revenue for solutions. So that has been the theme over and over again of the public.”

Kaine said he is sensing growing support, albeit privately, from state legislators in this direction.

“I’m having conversations and meetings with legislators to probe – OK, what are they willing to do. And what I hear, Chris, is an overwhelming sentiment of, We need to do something. Now, there are some folks who are afraid of, if I do it, will I get kicked off a committee, will I get a primary challenge, what will the Democrats say, what will the Republicans say? And so there are some fears. But there’s not much of a doubt among anyone that we need to act, and that we need to take advantage of this opportunity to act,” Kaine said.

“If people just come with whatever desire they have, if they they think something needs to be done, do it, we’ll get this solved. Because the majority want to solve it. It just is a question of, will that sentiment show up when we have the session?” Kaine said.

augusta free press
augusta free press