The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Transportation: They've got a plan

Both chambers of the General Assembly and Gov. Tim Kaine have put forward plans to fix Virginia's transportation system. This is a brief scorecard for those playing at home, drawn from a graphic in Wednesday's Daily. It's much better in print, so go buy a paper.

House of Delegates
Who’s responsible?
The GOP Caucus of the House of Delegates.

How much does it spend?
Some $2.02 billion over four years in direct funding, with room to leverage much more in bond funding.

Where does it spend it?
About $100 million a year goes to two 10-year revolving bond funds for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads for construction, which could leverage as much as $1.2 billion over the life of the bonds.

The biggest chunk, $552 million, goes to “critical projects,” like fixing choke points along Interstates 81, 66 and 64. Some $114 million goes to help buy things like railcars for Metro and another $180 million goes to help shore up highway maintenance.

Where does the money come from?
The state’s general fund, some shifted revenues and a new set of “abuser fees” for those convicted of certain misdemeanors and felonies on the highway.

How much would you pay?
That depends on just how bad your driving is. The only new tax or fee associated with the plan is an “abuser fee,” which begins with a charge of $100 per year for someone with four points on their license. Some offenses rack up $1,000 per year fees.

Land-use changes?
Lots. A package of bills makes it easier for local governments to accept proffers from developers, use those proffers to match state money for local road projects and plan for those projects in the long term.

What does it do for I-81?
Specifics haven’t been forthcoming, but some Republicans in the House of Delegates have said they want to make I-81 expansion a top priority for the $552 million.

What are the big picture ideas?
Local control, no tax hikes. Delegates want to start to shift control of roads away from VDOT toward local governments and the private sector. As one member put it, the plan puts “VDOT on probation.”

What do the other guys say?
Senate: Wants to see more money spent, doesn’t like tapping a half billion dollars from the general fund.
Kaine: Is open to the idea of debt for roads, but is wary of spending a great deal of general fund money.

Senate
Who’s responsible?
A bipartisan group of senators led by President Pro Tem John Chichester, R-Fredericksburg, who took their recommendations from last year’s Statewide Transportation Analysis and Recommendation Task Force.

How much does it spend?
Some $3.95 billion over the next four years.

Where does it go?
The same places it does now. SB 708 would spend an extra $663 million per year on VDOT’s annual construction budget.

Another $210 million would go to a local governments based on the amount of money raised in their jurisdictions to be used as they see fit for transportation.

Where does the money come from?
Higher sales taxes on cars and trucks, a hike in the diesel and gasoline taxes, 1.5 cents per gallon and about 10 cents per gallon, respectively, but drivers could apply for a rebate of their gas taxes at the end of the year.

Vehicle registration fees would go up $10, and the grantor’s tax — charged to the person selling real estate — would triple from 10 cents per $100 of assessed value to 30 cents per $100 of assessed value.

How much would you pay?
Drivers would pay the most in the form of extra fees for registration, higher gas taxes and a 25 percent increase in vehicle sales taxes starting in 2008. Those with eight demerit points on their record would also pay “abuser fees.”

Real estate transactions would also get more expensive, going up $400 for a $200,000 house.

Land-use changes?
The plan contains a “transfer of development rights” program designed to get more houses in fewer places, thus lowering infrastructure costs. It also requires more planning on the part of VDOT.

What does it do for I-81?
Nothing specific. The plan adds more money to current VDOT funding formulas, but doesn’t make any special allocations for the highway. Local governments would be eligible for more funding for I-81 projects, though.

What are the big picture ideas?
“User fees.” START pursued an “everybody plays, everybody pays” from day one, but the overall package spends some time talking to VDOT and land-use reform as well.

What do the other guys say?
House: Opposes new taxes.
Kaine: Doesn’t support raising gas taxes.

Kaine Administration
Who’s responsible?
Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine and his administration.

How much does it spend?
Some $3.7 billion over four years.

Where does it spend it?
Like the other plans, it’s not real specific on the expenditure side, other than to say that spend about half the money, $1.5 billion, to balance the state’s maintenance budget

Some $586 million goes to pay for more mass transit initiatives. Another $473 million is set aside to pay old bond debt and increase construction funding, while $312 million goes to match federal set asides for Virginia.

Where does the money come from?
Abuser fees, higher vehicle registration fees and raising the sales tax on cars to 5 percent. Some $339 million would come from the state’s General Fund.

How much would you pay?
As much as $13 more for tags and about $18 per year more for car insurance, according to the administration.

Land-use changes?
The hallmark of the plan was a bill to let local governments veto development if it would over burden the local transportation network. It died in committee.

What does it do for I-81?
It spends $10 million to match another $40 million for freight movement and safety improvements along the entire corridor.

What are the big picture ideas?
Tying land-use to transportation, don’t raise the gas tax. Kaine’s plan sticks close to the “user fee” model. But after a gubernatorial campaign filled with “Kaine will raise the gas tax” ads, fuel taxes are nowhere to be seen in Kaine’s plan.

What do the other guys say?
House: New taxes won’t fly when the state has a surplus.
Senate: Not much, other than some saying that they were uncomfortable with taking so much from the state’s general fund.