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House, Senate make 11th-hour roads bill overhaul

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 4, 2013 at 8:18 pm •  Published: February 4, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — House and Senate Republicans proposed wholesale overhauls Monday to Gov. Bob McDonnell's legacy transportation funding initiative just one day ahead of a drop-dead legislative deadline.

In the Senate, the amendment from the conservative sponsor of McDonnell's original bill substitutes a 5.5 percent sales tax at the wholesale level to gasoline and diesel and scraps McDonnell's proposed overall retail sales tax increase from 5 percent to 5.8 percent.

Sen. Stephen D. Newman, R-Lynchburg, said his bill would generate only about $2 billion to $2.5 billion over five years, short of the $3.1 billion that McDonnell's bill would yield.

A House substitute bill eliminates McDonnell's proposed $100 fee on new hybrid cars and allows for regional transportation projects. It retains McDonnell's general sales tax increase and his abolition of the 17½ cents-per-gallon gasoline tax.

Its sponsor, Del. S. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, said his bill would bring in about $52 million less than McDonnell's bill over five years.

Both proposals would also end a proposal to impose sharp tolls on a stretch of Interstate 95 through a low-income region of the state south of Petersburg by mandating legislative approval of tolls on Virginia interstates.

Another amendment in the House, by Del. David Albo of Fairfax, was rejected. It retained the proposed tax on gasoline, but instead of tying it to volume, it would be indexed to cost, allowing it to increase with inflation. It eliminates the remaining state taxes on groceries. It would have retained McDonnell's hybrid fee.

The Jones amendment and Newman's Senate rewrite both face votes for final passage on Tuesday.

The bombshells hit on the eve of "crossover," the annual deadline for each legislative chamber to finish work on its own bills. In the House, that left bleary-eyed delegates to make sense of the changes as a 10-hour floor session stretched late into Monday night.

The McDonnell administration made clear its preference for its own bill to Newman's in a statement from spokesman J. Tucker Martin Monday evening. Later, Martin proclaimed the governor "very pleased with the positive actions" of Jones' amendments.

Newman's amendment hit first, when the Senate adjourned at midafternoon, with the McDonnell administration spending most of the afternoon vetting the changes. The administration concluded it prefers its own version to Newman's.

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