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Transportation Funding: Conference Panel Seeks Compromise on Gas Tax, More

With days left in the 2013 Virginia General Assembly session, McLean-area Sen. Janet Howell joins group that will hammer out a transportation deal.

By Whitney Spicer, Capital News Service

A conference committee of 10 legislators has less than a week and a half to hammer out a compromise between the House and Senate versions of a bill to increase transportation funding in Virginia.

The committee was named Wednesday after the Senate passed a version of House Bill 2313 that differs greatly from a proposal approved by delegates last week.

The group will have eight Republicans and two Democrats — including McLean-area Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston). Nearby, Fairfax's Republican Del. Dave Albo was also appointed to the group. 

McDonnell said that if the committee can agree upon “a fiscally responsible plan,” he will sign it into law.

The panel must agree on a plan before the General Assembly’s session ends on Feb. 23.

“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 Senate's version of House Bill 2313, which was approved by the Senate on a 26-14 vote, would raise Virginia’s gasoline tax from 17.5 cents per gallon to 22.5 cents per gallon. Both McLean-area Sens. Barbara Favola and Janet Howell voted in favor of this. 

In contrast, the House version of HB 2313 would get rid of the gas tax entirely and raise the sales tax from 5 percent to 5.8 percent. McLean-area Del. Bob Brink voted in favor of this; Del. Barbara Comstock voted against. 

The House version reflects Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposals for pumping more than $3 billion in road and transit projects over the next five years.

The Senate’s version of the bill would not provide transportation as much money from the state’s general fund as McDonnell originally proposed. Both the House and Senate versions would raise vehicle registration fees.

Though most Republican senators voted against the Senate version of HB 2313, six voted for it. They were joined by all 20 Democratic senators.

The bill then went back to the House for consideration. Delegates rejected the Senate version on a 19-78 vote.

With only 10 days remaining in the session, McDonnell urged the conferees to work hard to reach common ground, laying out specifically what that 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. 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.”

How They Voted

Here is how the Senate voted Wednesday on HB 2313, according to the Legislative Information Service:

Floor: 02/13/13 Senate: Passed Senate with substitute with amendment (26-Y 14-N)

YEAS – Alexander, Barker, Blevins, Carrico, Colgan, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Herring, Howell, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Marsh, McEachin, McWaters, Miller, Northam, Petersen, Puckett, Puller, Saslaw, Stosch, Wagner, Watkins – 26.

NAYS – Black, Garrett, Hanger, Martin, McDougle, Newman, Norment, Obenshain, Reeves, Ruff, Smith, Stanley, Stuart, Vogel – 14.

(Carrico and McWaters both voted yea, whereas they intended to vote nay).

 The Senate version of HB 2313 then went to the House of Delegates for a vote. Here is how the House voted on the bill:

Floor: 02/13/13 House: VOTE: REJECTED (19-Y 78-N)

YEAS – Brink, Bulova, Carr, Dance, Filler-Corn, Herring, Hester, Hope, Kory, Krupicka, Lopez, McClellan, McQuinn, Morrissey, Plum, Sickles, Toscano, Tyler, Watts – 19.

NAYS – Albo, Anderson, Bell, Richard P., Bell, Robert B., Byron, Cline, Cole, Comstock, Cosgrove, Cox, M.K., Crockett-Stark, Dudenhefer, Edmunds, Fariss, Farrell, Garrett, Gilbert, Greason, Habeeb, Head, Helsel, Hodges, Howell, A.T., Hugo, Iaquinto, Ingram, James, Joannou, Johnson, Jones, Keam, Kilgore, Knight, Landes, LeMunyon, Lewis, Lingamfelter, Loupassi, Marshall, D.W., Marshall, R.G., Massie, May, Merricks, Miller, Minchew, Morefield, Morris, O’Bannon, O’Quinn, Orrock, Peace, Pogge, Poindexter, Purkey, Putney, Ramadan, Ransone, Robinson, Rush, Rust, Scott, E.T., Scott, J.M., Sherwood, Spruill, Stolle, Surovell, Tata, Torian, Villanueva, Ward, Ware, O., Ware, R.L., Watson, Webert, Wilt, Yancey, Yost, Mr. Speaker – 78.

NOT VOTING – BaCote, Cox, J.A., Wright – 3.

(Keam was recorded as nay. Intended to vote yea.)

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