Gov. Bob McDonnell spent Thursday traveling across the state to urge area business leaders and residents to support his “Virginia’s Road to the Future” transportation plan, saying his proposal could help jumpstart a number of projects in Northern Virginia that have seemed to stall.
The plan has gotten mixed reviews from some state legislators so far this session, but a new poll from Christopher Newport University showed 63 percent of Virginia voters support McDonnell's plan, which hinges on doing away with the state’s 17.5 cents per gallon gas tax and increasing the state sales tax from 5 percent to 5.8 percent.
The poll, released Thursday, surveyed 1,015 people across the state on a number of issues, including the governor's plan.
McDonnell’s plan also includes:
- Keeping the 17.5 cents per gallon gas tax on diesel fuel
- Increasing the portion of the state’s sales tax that would go directly toward transportation funding from .5 cents to .75 cents over the course of five years.
- Increase vehicle registration fees by $15.
- Impose an annual $100 alternative fuel vehicle fee.
McDonnell said if his plan is passed a number of transportation projects in Northern Virginia would be jumpstarted. Those projects include the Dulles Metrorail extension, improvements to the interchange at I-66 and Route 28 and widening Route 28 in Prince William County, among others.
A number of businesses and organizations across the state have spoken in support of the plan, including Amtrak, the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, the Home Builders Association of Virginia, Northern Virginia Technology Council, the Virginia Association of REALTORS and Wawa.
What McDonnell looked for Thursday was additional support from area business leaders, Virginia residents and organizations.
The governor has seen critics from both sides of the aisle: Republicans, many of whom have spoken against any kind of tax hike, and Democrats, who have said they don't want to give more general fund money to transportation over education and other state priorities.
State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City), who has introduced an alternative to the governor's plan, has said McDonnell's bill "makes no sense."
“I don’t think people buying and selling merchandise ought to pay a higher tax based on this out of state stress placed on our highways,” Petersen said at a town hall meeting this month in Vienna. “If you’re going to let those people use our highways for free meanwhile you raise taxes on ordinary Virginians, that’s a mistake.”
On Thursday, McDonnell said even after increasing Virginia’s sales tax, it will still be lower than neighboring states and shouldn’t have an impact on sales, McDonnell said. Additionally, people in neighboring states may start coming to Virginia for their gasoline, he said.
McDonnell said the funds dedicated to transportation from the state sales tax wouldn’t be allowed to be moved or used elsewhere, which has been done in the past.
By the middle of next week Virginia’s legislators will begin voting on transportation, McDonnell said; he wants to get something done and see it done this year. Failling to act could erode Virginia’s ability to compete internationally, he said.
At the governor's Thursday appearance in Herndon, Jim Corcoran, president and CEO of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, said Virginia has a transportation crisis and needs its legislature to come together and pass a plan.
"It's affecting each and every one of us and the lifestyles that we have here," he said. "Compromise is the art of politics," he said. "We may need to see some compromise on this, but Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate need to come together. Compromise is not failure, compromise is getting something done."
More on McDonnell's "Virginia's Road to the Future" plan:
• Speak Out: Will McDonnell's Tax Plan Help Virginia?
• Constituents Focus on Transportation at Del. Rust's Town Hall Meeting