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

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Senate has a new plan... House isn't coming back

UPDATE 2 — Comments from House Speaker Below.

It's been a very eventful day in the Virginia Senate. The Finance Committee has voted out House Bill 5001, the "caboose bill," but it's no longer a caboose bill. It's got the Senate's two-year budget and the new transportation plan all rolled in.

Senators will be back at 4:30 p.m. to debate and vote.

Among the big changes, regional transportation tax authorities for the entire state. Any two localities can go in together to form bodies that can levy:

•a 1/2 cent sales tax
•a 1 percent lodging tax
•a local gas tax, up to 10 cents per gallon
•a new grantor's fee, up to .2 percent of the cost of property.

At the state level, the gas tax/refund program is gone, repalced with other local and dealer-level taxes.

The new bottom line for statewide taxes closely matches the House's initial number, $2.1 billion over four years in new taxes, including:

• Raising the car sales tax by .75 percent,
• A 6 cents per gallon tax on gas for fuel terminal operators,
• A 1.5 cent increase in the Diesel fuel tax,
• A $10 hike in vehicle registration fees,
• Higher fees for overweight vehicles and
• A 20 percent hike in registration fees for heavy trucks.

Regardless, the House of Delegates will not be coming back tomorrow. Majority Leader Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, said there wasn't enough time to call the House of Delegates back on Thursday, and would hold a "pro-forma" session instead.

Plus, he said, there are serious problems with the Senate bill that would keep it from winning approval in the House.

"We sent them a caboose bill," he said. "They sent us back a two year and three month budget."


After hours of work to retool HB 5001, the Senate has voted in 38-to-0 in favor of the bill. More details on the debate here later...

UPDATE 2-- Raw Data

Statement from House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Fredericksburg

“It is hard to imagine that the Senate could produce a plan that would impact Virginia’s taxpayers more adversely than those they had previously endorsed. If they had approved the plan passed by the Senate Finance Committee today, they would have succeeded in doing so. Still, the plan ultimately approved today would result in Virginians paying more than $1 billion per year in new taxes and fees at a time when the Commonwealth is experiencing record surpluses and less than two years after citizens had a $1.4 billion tax increase imposed on them.

“The effect of the Senate’s latest plan on the price Virginians pay to fill up their car or pickup is especially severe. With an effective 34% increase in the tax on gasoline and a 47% increase in the tax on diesel fuel, their plan would result in everyone have to pay more per gallon.

“The Senate’s newest plan does not limit its tax hikes to the pump, retaining the most egregious increases of the earlier plans. The Senate plan guarantees that every Virginian will have to pay 34% more every year to register their car or truck. The Senate plan guarantees that every Virginian will have to pay 25% more in taxes when they buy a vehicle. And, the Senate plan still would result in every Virginian having to pay more in taxes when they sell their home.

“The Senate’s continued refusal to adopt a balanced and comprehensive approach to addressing Virginia’s transportation needs – realizing that we cannot pave nor tax our way out of congestion – is especially disappointing. The plan approved by the House increases funding for transportation, but it also reforms the way VDOT operates and incorporates important land use reforms to help localities better combat the growth and sprawl that cause congestion. The ultimate result of the Senate’s latest plan would increase VDOT’s authority, without requiring the agency to enact the reforms necessary to increase its efficiency and effectiveness. Their approach failed when it was enacted in 1986, and there is no reason to expect a different result today. The House continues to support the balanced, three-pronged approach to transportation it unveiled on February 10.

“Since the conclusion of the Regular Session, we have empowered our conferees to continue to meet with their Senate counterparts to negotiate a budget agreement that could earn the support of both chambers. Right now, the House has placed a priority on completing the work necessary to reach an agreement on House Bill 5001 (identical to House Bill 29, approved during the regular session), so that necessary changes to the 2004-2006 Biennial Budget can be enacted. There is no reason, nor any justification, not to pass this important legislation promptly.

“The House of Delegates passed House Bills 29 and 30 on February 23. Our conferees are ready and prepared to meet with their Senate counterparts to discuss the completion of an agreement on House Bill 5001, the amendments to the 2004-2006 Biennial Budget. They are also committed to continuing negotiations on what will ultimately be Virginia’s 2006-2008 Biennial Budget, House Bill 5002. I know that Chairman Callahan is anxious to hear a response from Senator Chichester, so that a schedule of meetings for those negotiations can be set.”