Senate Passes Amended Transportation Plan

RICHMOND – In a bipartisan show of support, the Senate passed on Wednesday HB2313, a transportation funding bill that will raise the gas tax in Virginia.

The plan differs in many ways from the bill that was passed by the House of Delegate’s last week. The Senate’s plan would increase the gas tax in Virginia, something Governor Bob McDonnell had proposed to get rid of altogether. The Senate’s version also would not use near as much general funding as McDonnell originally proposed.

“The take away from today’s action by the Senate of Virginia on House Bill 2313 is that the discussion over transportation will continue right up until the end of the 2013 session,” said Senate Majority Leader Thomas “Tommy” Norment, Jr., (R-James City). Senator Norment was one of 14 Republicans who voted against the bill.

With only 10 days left in the General Assembly session, the bill has now been sent to a conference committee where legislators from each chamber will work together to pass a bill that both parties can agree on. Governor McDonnell has stated that if the committee can agree upon “a fiscally responsible plan” he will sign it into law.

According to Norment, although many Republicans voted against the Senate’s passage of the bill, others voted favorably for the explicit reason of sending the bill to a conference committee.

“In casting their votes on the Senate substitute to House Bill 2313 today, Republican Senators represented the best interests of the people of their respective districts. For most, that meant opposing this plan. For others, it meant a favorable vote, in some cases in the expressed interest of getting a bill into conference.”

The conference committee will be comprised of eight Republicans and two Democrats who were selected from both the House of Delegates and the Senate to represent their chambers in the committee. The conferees include Dels. John O’Bannon, R-Henrico, Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, Beverly Sherwood, R-Frederick, Dave Albo, R-Fairfax, Onzlee Ware, D-Roanoke, and Sens. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, Walter Stosch, R-Henrico, John Watkins, R-Powhatan, Thomas “Tommy” Norment, R-James City County, and Janet Howell, D-Fairfax.

“The task before these conferees will not be easy,” said House Speaker William Howell, “But I know they are committed to addressing Virginia’s long-term transportation needs.”

The House of Delegates passed a transportation bill last week that closely resembled Governor McDonnell’s original proposal. On Monday, the Senate amended their version of the transportation funding bill to raise the gas tax, instead of eliminating it. The Senate plan also increases the amount of sales tax that will go towards transportation from 5 percent to 55 percent.

With only ten days remaining in the session, McDonnell urged the conferees to work hard to reach a common ground, laying out specifically what that common ground would entail.

“That common ground must include a significant commitment of the projected future growth in the general fund revenues, greater reliance on sustainable revenue sources which grow with economic activity, as opposed to gasoline tax increases, and sufficient revenues to address maintenance crossover, construction, passenger rail, and transit needs without over burdening our citizens and businesses with taxes,” McDonnell said.

“We must act now,” he added, “We must pass a plan this session. To do so will ensure that Virginia remains the top state in which to live, work, and raise a family.”

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