General Assembly Update
February 23, 2012
OMNIBUS TRANSPORTATION BILLS HEADED TO CONFERENCE?
SB 639 (Wagner, R-Va. Beach) and HB 1248 (Lingamfelter, R-Prince William) are the Governor’s Omnibus Transportation bills. As you recall (SEE February 9th General Assembly Update) these bills took very different paths as they worked there way through their respective houses. While there were numerous differences between the bills, the primary difference is that the House version still has intact the Governor’s proposal to increase funding for transportation by moving, over a seven year period, ¼ of a percent of the sales tax revenues from the general fund to transportation. The Senate has rejected this idea, substituting a gas tax indexing provision instead.
A major concern was that the House would reject the Senate version and vice versa, leaving no vehicle for a conference committee to work out differences. That concern may have been overcome. The House “conformed” the Senate bill to the House language, and the Senate Transportation Committee has referred the House bill to the House Finance Committee. Our expectation is the Senate Finance Committee will conform the House bill to be the same as the Senate bill. If the bills remain on this path, each substituting it’s version for the other house, we could see the bills end up in a Conference Committee where the conferees will have an opportunity to resolve the conflicts.
This is potentially good news as it will keep gas tax indexing and a portion of the sales tax alive for discussion by the conferees. More details will follow later.
BOTH GAS TAX INDEXING AND SALES TAX ARE NEEDED TO BEGIN TO FIX CROSSOVER
Beginning in 2002, VDOT had to transfer money from the construction budget to meet basic maintenance needs. Since that time, the amount of “crossover” has grown to more than $400 million a year. Simply put, the patient is bleeding to death. Neither indexing the gas tax nor allocating an additional ¼ cent of sales tax alone do much to address the problem…yet both together begin to make a difference. Using conservative projections, the chart below shows the annual dollar impact of indexing, sales tax transfer and both over the next six years:
|Fiscal Year||Indexing||Sales Tax||Total New Revenue|
All numbers in millions of dollars.
MESSAGES FOR YOUR LEGISLATOR
As you reach out to your legislators to ask for their support for indexing the gas tax and an additional ¼ of one cent of sales tax for transportation, here are some talking points that you can use to show them the importance of doing both THIS YEAR!
- We are forced to take $450 million a year out of the construction budget to meet basic maintenance needs.
- We have more than 5,000 bridges that are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The latest price tag to bring them up to standard is $4 billion.
- In Northern Virginia we face some of the worst traffic congestion in America.
- We have not adjusted the gas tax, the primary source of transportation revenues, in more than 25 years. During that time the buying power of those dollars has declined more than 40%.
- The cost to bring our roadways up to standards is more than $1 billion.
- We have had to abandon the formula for distributing transportation dollars leaving our secondary system with almost no funding.
- In less than five years we will have no highway construction program as debt service and basic maintenance consume all of our construction dollars.
BILLS TRACKING UPDATE
By clicking on the links below, you can get the most recent update on the status of bills VTCA is engaged in for its members.
High Priority Bills